You're standing in a backyard. Doesn't matter which backyard. Any backyard.
A group of boys have convened at the house after school. Homework and studying and dinner will have to wait. There's business to attend to.
A football rests in the grass. A mad dash to grab the pigskin. The first hand to snatch the ball off the ground hoists it triumphantly in the air. "I get to be quarterback!"
You're watching a fall practice. Doesn't matter which fall practice. Any fall practice.
Actually, you're probably not watching it at all. Since South Carolina entered the 2015 preseason, practices have, with the exception of a few sessions, been closely guarded. The Gamecocks are coming off their worst season since 2009 and everyone with a vested interest in the football program wants to know the same thing; Who gets to be quarterback?
Gone are the record-setting days of Dylan Thompson. Gone are the steady, consistent, victory-filled days of Connor Shaw. Heck, some may even pine for a certain long-haired, scruffy gunslinger from Tampa at this point. He did start 28 consecutive games at one point.
Tasked with filling the void left by these three are five young men who, by the time the season opener rolls around, will have gone a combined 4,071 days without starting a football game.
Connor grew up in North Carolina. His alma mater, Wakefield High School, is less than three hours from Bank of America Stadium. He's been called the Gamecock's "quarterback of the future" and "the best quarterback Steve Spurrier has ever recruited to South Carolina." His father played quarterback at Syracuse. His brother was a backup signal-caller at Maryland before playing with teams like the Turku Trojans (Finland), the Hoenems Blue Devils (Austria), and the Lexington Horsemen (Arena). His older sister played basketball at Duke. Interesting to note that Mitch's brother left the Maryland football team after two seasons and his sister left Duke's program after three. This will be Connor's third year at South Carolina. He's thrown six passes.
Lorenzo isn't a typical SEC quarterback recruit. His Harrison Hoyas went 5-5 in his senior season and he threw for just 803 yards two touchdowns last year. If not for Connor Shaw, Shawn Elliott, and South Carolina's transition to a more zone-read-oriented offense, Lorenzo might be preparing for his freshman season at Ohio State or Nebraska, two of the other programs who offered him scholarships. There are those who claim he will never become South Carolina's starting quarterback, that his talents will only be utilized in specific packages, that he is the type of player who can be a change of pace QB, a Wildcat wild card but not the starter. Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't.
Perry hasn't started a football game since Ponte Vedra High School lost to Wakulla in the FHSAA Class 5A semifinals. Come to think of it, Perry hasn't completed a pass in a game since Ponte Vedra High School lost to Wakulla in the FHSAA Class 5A semifinals. His older brother was a four-year starter at The Citadel's baseball program. His younger brother is a quarterback who made the mistake of committing to UAB one year before the Blazers temporarily scrapped football. He's now at South Alabama. Perry was put on scholarship last Wednesday, ending his career as a Publix employee. As for his football resume, he threw a pair of incompletions last year against Furman. That makes him the second-most experienced quarterback on South Carolina's roster.
Gage probably never should have gotten to South Carolina. After transferring to Rancho Cucamonga for his senior season, he was getting looks from UCLA, Boise State, and Iowa State. Before the season, he new head coach said the team's biggest challenge would be keeping him upright. Three games into the year, on a game-winning drive, he injured his knee. The backup quarterback, a sophomore who had never started a varsity football game, took the job the following week and never gave it back. However, in what turned out to be his last game as a starter, Gage rallied the Cougars from a 29-17 deficit with just over five minutes to play, throwing four touchdown passes in a 32-29 victory.
Michael thinks the last pass he threw in a game was too far inside. With undefeated Fleming Island trailing 48-41 in overtime of the FHSAA Class 7A quarterfinals, his throw on 4th-and-goal went off the hands of his wide receiver in the corner of the end zone to end his high school career. Michael said after the game that he should have thrown the ball farther to the outside. Exactly one month earlier, he had received an offer from South Carolina. Five days after the Gamecocks offered, Michael reneged on his commitment to UAB and committed to South Carolina. His uncle was a two-way starter at Miami in 1956, starting at quarterback and strong safety.
A record-setting Tar Heel native, a quarterback who threw more INTs than TDs in his senior year, a Florida State College transfer, a Californian off a knee injury, and a former UAB commit make up South Carolina 2015 quarterback class.
One of them will be an SEC starter by September 3rd. As for now, no one is quite sure how to answer the defining question of South Carolina's upcoming campaign.
Who's going to be quarterback?