Forensic Footballer: A Bird In The Hand's Worth?

Saturday's first football scrimmage of the Spurrier era, clearly indicates the Gamecocks have a long, long way to go ...

So, you were expecting a snap of the fingers, a wave of the wand and presto change-o South Carolina has a football team ready to compete for the SEC East Title!

Come back to reality. Just in case you are not yet ready; speak with some of your friends that attended this past weekend's first football scrimmage of the Steve Spurrier era.

Spurrier may be a miracle worker but he is not a magician. Not yet anyway. Building a powerhouse football program here at the University of South Carolina is going to take time.

Let's begin and end with quarterbacks. Word is that we may hear word on Mike Rathe's status some time this week. Before you go off mumbling something about Rathe not having a good day Saturday, remember the pressure you may have felt at some point in your life when you were facing some critical unknown. It doesn't matter what the critical unknown may have been, it is the "not knowing", dragging on and on and on, that causes the pressure. Perhaps you were waiting on word about a big job. Or perhaps you were waiting on word from a doctor about your health. Or perhaps you were waiting on your current wife to give you a yes or no on a particular proposal. Now imagine the mental pressure on Mike Rathe waiting on the NCAA to grant him another year of eligibility. A year he deserves, I might add.

Then there is Blake Mitchell. Or maybe not? Mitchell has yet to live up to the hype. The real question is whether or not he ever will. He has been a Gamecock for two solid years and is entering his third as a major college football player. The problem is that he has, (in the past at least), not worked hard at bettering his craft. That is not a good sign and worse yet it is not a malady that Spurrier suffers lightly in his quarterbacks. Things are not looking good for Blake Mitchell right now.

Antonio Heffner has a great arm and a passel of athleticism but he does not have the pure drop back quick read skills of the Spurrier QBs we have seen in the past. Heffner does look like a possible Syvelle Newton type athlete and, who knows, perhaps a wide receiver or secondary player in the near future.

Then there is Brett Nichols. He is a good kid with a ton of heart but he is a walkon. Walkon quarterbacks rarely live the Cinderella stories portrayed in Hollywood. The ones where they come out of nowhere to lead their teams to many wins and major championships. Oh sure, there are QBs here and there that blossom at minor programs and go on to become major talents in the big leagues. But walkon QBs in the SEC? ... come back to reality you Brett Nichols fans.

So unless Mike Rathe receives good word in the very near future, in time to get in his fair share of snaps this spring, expect one of the two freshmen to make a move this fall. Which would mean this spring will stay slow and steady and boring to so many of us watching from the sidelines.

Cade Thompson and Tommy Beecher, in no particular order, should be chomping at their respective bits. Because you see, while walkon QBs have the life expectancy of a fly in the SEC - freshman QBs often fair better. And these two Spurrier hand-picked signal callers are big time. As a matter of fact, we have been told that they are working hard. They are planning on making the most of their chances. Which is more than we can say for one particular quarterback who has already seen a few years in the garnet and black.

So, moving slow is not a bad thing. Better to work with what you've got and make them better (cornerbacks, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, etc.), than to neglect your bird in the hand while waiting on the two in the bush.

Does that make sense?

In the meantime it would not surprise us to hear good news from the NCAA regarding Mike Rathe this week. And when it finally does happen, you will see the weight off of his shoulders and the great improvement that comes with a clear and focused mind.

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