Spring Preview: Quarterbacks

Believe it or not, spring football practice is right on the horizon again. Gamecock Anthem begins its previews of practice with this look at the quarterback. Look inside for the quarterbacks returning and storylines to watch. South Carolina's spring practice beings March 13 at 4:15.

Returning Starters

6-foot-1, 204 pound SO Connor Shaw (Flowery Branch, Ga.) - Played in 10 games. Completed 123 of 188 (65.4%) passes for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns to six interceptions. 148.31 passing efficiency while passing for an average of 144.8 yards a game. Added another 525 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground on 135 carries for an average of 52.5 yards a game.

Recruiting rewind - No. 31 QB Offers - ECU, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Wake Forest, West Virginia

Others Returning

6-foot-2, 212 pound RS JR Andrew Clifford (Tampa, Fla.) - Played in one game. Completed 2 of 2 (100%) passes for 23 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

Recruiting rewind - No. 125 QB

6-foot-2, 213 pound RS SO Dylan Thompson (Boiling Spring, S.C.) - Played in four games. Completed 2 of 2 (100%) passes for 17 yards (No TDs or INTs). Added 16 yards and a touchdown on the ground on five carries.

Recruiting rewind - NR QB

6-foot-6, 207-pound RS FR Tanner McEvoy (Hillsdale, N.J.) - Did not play. Redshirted.

Recruiting rewind - No. 48 WR Offers - Boston College, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Rutgers (Among others)

Objectives and Storylines

More throws for Connor
All last offseason quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said that all Connor Shaw needed was more throws and an opportunity. Shaw got both last season when he ultimately took over at the team's starter and by the end of the season became one of the team's leaders as well.

Shaw will enter the spring in a completely different universe this year as he's now the returning starter instead of the back-up fighting for the spot of a veteran ahead of him. Shaw has responded well, reportedly working harder than ever in the weight room, and shows no signs of slowing his obvious progression from his start against ECU in last year's opener to his performances in the final two games against Clemson and Nebraska.

Even with that experience under his belt, Shaw is a still a quarterback learning to play the position -- he was a wide receiver until his final two years of high school and played only sparingly his freshman year in Columbia. But Shaw has a ton of upside and appeared to be on the verge of making the step from the "game manager" tag to being a true playmaker last year year, especially against Clemson when he showed his true capability as a passer and as a runner.

The key for Shaw will be to just continue to get throw after throw in practice and begin to adjust to life without Alshon Jeffery, who moves on to the NFL. The Gamecocks could have a very balanced passing attack this year, but it all starts with the work put in this spring. Look for Shaw to emerge as a true leader at the QB position.

Find a back-up
The Gamecocks thought they were finally going to have a legitimate back-up last year in Shaw (or Garcia if Shaw beat him out). But when Shaw became the true starter and Garcia was dismissed, they again had to go through the season without a true experienced back-up.

If there's one major negative to running the zone-read offense, it's that there's plenty of opportunity for the quarterback to take shots, and Shaw isn't as big as Garcia was. Spring will be as good a time as any for another quarterback to step up.

Clifford will be going into his fourth year in the program in the fall while Thompson will be going into his third year. With young guns like McEvoy and Brendan Nosovitch in the program, the time for them to step up and hold off the youngsters may be now.

First look at the young gun
There have been some extremely positive reports from inside the Gamecock camp about impressive performances from McEvoy during the "Friday Night Light" young player scrimmages the Gamecocks hold in the Fall. But what will McEvoy look like in his first chance to truly shine in front of the public this spring?

Mangus is extremely high on McEvoy's upside. He's got a big arm and is extremely athletic. There will no doubt be some growing pains, but the upside is undeniable. How quickly will McEvoy pick up the actual offense after being on scout team last year? How much better will his release look? That's something he worked on in the Fall. And could McEvoy compete for the back-up spot? These are all questions that could be answered this spring.

Looking Ahead

6-foot-1, 210 pound FR Brendan Nosovitch (Allentown, Pa.) - Nosovitch will join the fold this summer and while only a three-star rated prospect (No. 44 QB), he has some nice credentials. A proven leader and winner, Nosovitch is the quarterback that Mangus evaluated early and went out to land. Nosovitch is a good runner and has an accurate arm with good touch.

Nosovitch was one of the most prolific passers Pennsylvania has ever seen throwing for 9,249 yards to go along with 106 touchdown passes in his career.

his most impressive performance came in game one of the playoffs his senior year, when he willed his team to a 61-54 victory with a 487-yard, eight-touchdown passing performance, which included a game-winner with 31 seconds to play. He added 38 more yards and another TD on the ground.

Nosovitch will likely redshirt as a freshman, but has a bright future.

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