College Sports

A not-that-brief history of South Carolina football and its dual-threat QBs

South Carolina quarterback Dakereon Joyner had to answer the question, probably each time he talked publicly this August. His QB coach Dan Werner answered it, and that was before he was told he was the No. 3 passer heading into the 2019 season.

Joyner has been and likely will continue to be asked about and speculated about changing positions. It was probably in the ether when he came to Columbia, turning down chances to play another spot for a school such as Clemson, and that got ramped up when ESPN’s Tom Luginbill said Joyner could star at a position other than QB.

And it probably won’t die down now that he’s behind a player a year younger than him on the depth chart.

Such is life for many dual-threat passers. If they’re good enough athletes to have an impact there, maybe they could elsewhere.

Usually the speculation is to make them a safety or wide receiver. Taller, burlier passers are suggested as tight ends. With his physical running style, Joyner might get some picks to play tailback.

One only needs to look at South Carolina’s history at the position, one that presents an interesting picture (dual-threat QBs based on Rivals listings).

Jay Urich, 2017 class

The quarterback taken the year before Joyner. He got a little work behind center last year and is now moving over to wide receiver nearly full time.

Brandon McIlwain, 2016 class

One of the gems of the Spurrier-to-Muschamp transition class. He started three games as a freshman, struggling to assert himself as a runner or passer. After losing the job to Jake Bentley, McIlwain transferred to Cal. There, he stepped in at first as a running, change-of-pace QB and then started three games. He struggled as a passer with eight interceptions and ran for 400 yards. He is expected to move to a running back hybrid spot as a junior and pursue baseball after next spring.

Best passing season: 763 yards, two touchdowns, eight interceptions in 10 games last season, 403 rushing yards and four touchdowns

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Lorenzo Nunez, 2015 class

Thrown into the fire as a true freshman in a lost season by Steve Spurrier, his USC career somewhat matched McIlwain’s. He won his first start, against UCF, then threw three interceptions against Missouri and was a change-of-pace runner the rest of the season. The Muschamp staff moved him to receiver, then he transferred to Southeast Louisiana State. After throwing for 1,101 yards in nine starts as a sophomore at his new home, he spent most of last season at wide receiver.

Best passing season: 1,101 yards, 11 TDs, 6 interceptions, completed 45 percent of his passes. Added 353 yards and five touchdowns.

Brendan Nosovitch, 2012

A dual-threat passer in the 2012 USC signing class, he threw two passes as a freshman and was converted to a tight end at some point. He was later converted back and then went to Boston College to finish his carer. His final career stats were three carries and two pass attempts, and he did not see the field his senior season.

Tanner McEvoy, 2011

One of two quarterbacks signed in his class (the other was a defensive back by the time he signed), McEvoy boasted uncommon athleticism but had only played QB for one season. He was expected to work his way toward learning the position but transferred out after a DUI arrest. He threw for 2,301 yards in junior college and landed at Wisconsin, where he played safety for a year, starting three games, and also was listed as a quarterback and receiver. He was named the starting QB the next fall, but after a bad passing start to his junior season, he was benched and then moved into a hybrid role. After a 574-yard rushing season, he picked off five passes as a safety his senior year, caught 10 passes as a receiver and subbed in as a wildcat QB effectively. He ended up getting a little work as a receiver in the NFL and is currently on the Tennessee Titans roster .

Best passing season: Threw for 709 yards, five touchdowns, six interceptions in 14 games. Also ran for 574 yards, 284 in his five starts.

Connor Shaw, 2010

After working behind Stephen Garcia for a few years, he stepped in and became a star, first as a runner more than a passer, and then his passing came around. He won 29 games as a USC starter, and his final two seasons posted passer ratings of 158.1 and 162.9. His last year saw him throw 24 touchdowns and one interception, cementing his legacy as the Gamecocks’ best-ever QB.

Best passing season: 2,447 yards, 63.4 percent completion rate, 24 scores, one interception, ran for 558 yards and six touchdowns.

Aramis Hillary, 2008

Didn’t see the field for two years with the Gamecocks. Transferred to Coastal Carolina, where he started his final two years, leading the team to the second round of the FCS playoffs and a top-25 finish as a senior.

Best passing season: 2,665 yards, 21 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 567 rushing yards, four touchdowns.

Antonio Heffner, 2004

He was listed as a pro-style passer out of high school, but probably had a bit of dual-threat skill set. He threw for 236 yards in 2005, started against Auburn and played some wide receiver. He transferred to Tennessee State after that year, becoming the team’s top QB for three years (he was hurt for one). After battling injuries, he put up a solid dual-threat season as a senior and led the team to an 8-4 record.

Best passing season: 2,239 yards, 15 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 503 rushing yards with four touchdowns.

Syvelle Newton, 2003

An early slash player, he was asked to play some quarterback, running back, receiver and safety. He threw for more than 1,000 yards twice, and had four seasons with more than 250 rushing or receiving yards. He has since lamented not being able to play QB full-time.

Best passing season: 1,316 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions, ran for 330 yards, had 99 receiving and made 18 tackles.

Mike Rathe, 2003

A junior college transfer, he threw for 167 yards in two seasons as a reserve. He was later denied an NCAA appeal for a fifth season.

Aryhel Freeman, 2002

A four-star recruit, he spent two years in Columbia and didn’t register any stats. He left for South Carolina State, where he threw for 265 yards as a backup before leaving after one season.