The Zeb Noland show took center stage during South Carolina’s 46-0 beatdown of Eastern Illinois (0-2) on Saturday.
Noland wasn’t a complete showstopper for the Gamecocks (1-0), but he was about as good as could’ve been expected from a quarterback who started the summer as a graduate assistant before being added to the roster three weeks ago.
“When my alarm goes off, I wake up and I’m fired up and ready,” Noland said after the game. “I know coach (Shane) Beamer says it all the time, but I’m fired up to go to work to just because I love to be around these guys. There’s always a little dog left and anybody.”
The completion percentage won’t pop out. Neither will his yardage marks. Four touchdowns sure will, though, thanks to a handful of short fields the South Carolina defense afforded.
“For the most part, there wasn’t a whole lot to pick apart,” South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer added during his Sunday teleconference with local reporters. “He did what he was supposed to do and went the right places with the ball and thought he played really well.”
So what all does Noland’s performance mean with presumed starter Luke Doty on the mend? In all reality, there are three options:
▪ Keep riding Noland;
▪ insert Doty when he’s back to full strength; or
▪ find a way to play both guys.
Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield have both said they’d like to avoid playing two quarterbacks, if they can. Noland and Doty do give off differing enough skillsets to make it plausible.
Noland looked the part of a game manager in his debut. Onlookers kept waiting for him to make the “oh no” throw into double coverage or miss a receiver and smack a defender in the chest with a pass. It never happened.
“He managed the game well,” Beamer said Sunday. “We talked about protecting the football and he he certainly did that.”
Then there’s Doty. He’s not quite the passer Noland is on paper, but the former four-star recruit has better arm talent than he’s given credit for. Combine that with his dual-threat ability (which is obviously hampered by his lingering foot injury) and you get a different skill set from Noland.
Coming out of the spring, the starting quarterback job was fully Doty’s. Beamer said as much following the spring game, noting he’d be the starter heading into the summer and toward the fall barring something completely unforeseen.
Well, the unforeseen happened when a teammate stepped on Doty’s foot and Noland is now riding high off a four-touchdown night.
Sunday, Beamer told reporters Doty was at practice but didn’t do much. However, the expectation is that he’ll be ready to go Saturday when South Carolina heads up to Greenville, North Carolina.
“I’m not putting Luke Doty out there before he’s ready and healthy,” Beamer reiterated. “Just got off the field. We’re going to do East Carolina prep here tonight and tomorrow, get ready for practice on Tuesday and we’ll see how the week goes (at quarterback).”
Doty’s health aside, Beamer was resolute in that he has no plans to name a starting quarterback ahead of the Gamecocks’ trip to East Carolina.
He pointed to forcing Pirates head coach Mike Houston and his staff to prepare any number of signal callers from Noland and Doty to Dakereon Joyner — who ran some wildcat quarterback against Eastern Illinois — and Jason Brown.
“I’m not going to come in there on Tuesday and tell you who the starting quarterback is,” Beamer said. “So you don’t need to waste time (asking) who the quarterback is going to be, what the reps look like. I’m not getting into it.”
Beamer and Satterfield have both been tight-lipped on how they’ll handle the quarterback situation once Doty is healthy. Should Noland continue to play like he did Week 1 against East Carolina this coming week, though, it’s a fair assumption he’ll get the first shot under center when South Carolina treks down to Georgia on Sept. 18.
Until then, the waiting game continues in Columbia.