COLUMBIA — In 2007, G.A. Mangus was in his second of three seasons as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State. There was nothing remarkable about that 2007 team, nor the 2008 squad, both of which finished 5-7. Before the 2009 season, Mangus left to become the quarterbacks coach at South Carolina, under his coach from his playing days at Florida, Steve Spurrier.
Mangus has long since established himself with the Gamecocks, particularly as one of their better recruiters. But he might just draw upon that 2007 season at Middle Tennessee State in the near future, as he and Spurrier determine how best to use their two proven quarterbacks, senior Connor Shaw and junior Dylan Thompson.
Junior Joe Craddock entered 2007 as Middle Tennessee State’s starter but injured his back in the third game against LSU. He missed the next four games, as Mangus turned to true freshman Dwight Dasher, an athletic runner but unpolished passer. When Craddock returned, Mangus platooned the two, even using them on the field at the same time. Mangus still has his notes from that season on the Craddock/Dasher combination.
“I’m a pack rat, man,” he said. “I never get rid of anything.”
Shaw, a skilled runner but a better thrower than Dasher in 2007, has been USC’s starter since midway through 2011. Thompson, more of a true pocket passer, played the entire Clemson game last year and led USC to a win, then threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the next contest, the Outback Bowl against Michigan.
Shaw completed 67.5 percent of his passes last season for 1,956 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has thrown 449 career passes in 30 games (20 starts). Thompson was a mostly unknown backup before last year, when he completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,027 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He has 129 career pass attempts in 15 games (two starts).
Despite the experience gap, there is a good chance both play again this season. In what fashion, Spurrier and Mangus have yet to decide.
“Who knows what rabbit we’ll pull out of the hat maybe during the season at some point in time,” Mangus said.
Spurrier calls USC’s offensive plays, and he said last month that maybe Shaw could play receiver when Thompson lined up under center, or perhaps both quarterbacks could line up in the shotgun formation, leaving the opponent wondering who will take the snap.
“I don’t know about that one,” Mangus said with a laugh. “I don’t even know that I’ve seen that. But we’ll see. It’s fun to play around and get on the (chalk) board with all that kind of stuff. Guys like Connor, when they’re that athletic, you can get on the board and have a lot of fun. We’ll see what sticks.”
USC didn’t do anything wacky with its quarterbacks in Friday’s first practice. Shaw playing receiver remains a legitimate option that the coaches are still discussing, Shaw said, but he doesn’t expect to practice there until the Gamecocks begin installing their game plan for the Aug. 29 season opener against North Carolina.
However this whole dynamic unfolds, Shaw sounds intent on making it work.
“I think it’s an advantage to have two guys that can go out there and play and win ball games,” he said. “It doesn’t faze me at all. We were used to it last year and it worked for us, so it’ll work for us this year again.”
While Mangus likes having options, he made it clear that the starting job still belongs to Shaw, who missed spring practices after undergoing offseason foot surgery.
“There’s no cons (to having two quarterbacks),” Mangus said last month. “You’ll never hear me say that’s a con. This is the first year that we have two proven guys that have gotten some reps and shown they can win football games. So that’s exciting. If Connor is healthy, Connor is our starting quarterback. He’s kind of earned the right to have that going in. But it’s nice to know that we have Dylan ready to go.
“I know Connor pretty well, known him for a long time and know (his) family. I wouldn’t bet on him giving up his job, and doing something that somebody is going to overtake him. With all the experience he’s got, it’s just difficult to do. We’ve got two good quarterbacks, and at some point in time during the season, most likely both are going to play.”