TAMPA, Fla. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and his Michigan counterpart, Brady Hoke, finally revealed on Monday the particulars of their quarterback situations for today’s Outback Bowl.
Speaking at a joint news conference, they repeated what they’ve said leading up to the game: Two quarterbacks will play for each team. Spurrier had said that Connor Shaw will start and Dylan Thompson will get in. He stood by that Monday. Hoke hadn’t said much of anything definitive about his quarterback plan before Monday.
Spurrier clarified Monday that he wants to play Shaw, his regular starter, for most of the game, but he believes Dylan Thompson has earned a chance to contribute. On Saturday, Spurrier said he hoped to play one quarterback for most the game, but didn’t say which one. Shaw didn’t play in USC’s last game, the regular season finale win at Clemson, because of a sprained left foot.
“I’ve always thought you should tell one guy it’s his game unless he gets hurt or it really goes terribly wrong and you have to make a change,” Spurrier said. “(Shaw) feels and we all feel he’s 100 percent healthy. We’re hoping Connor plays about all the game. We think he certainly deserves the right to go in there and (know): ‘Hey, this is my game, let’s go.’”
After being evasive about quarterback questions, Hoke finally said Monday that Devin Gardner, his usual backup, would start over Denard Robinson. Gardner started for the final four games as Robinson was nursing a sore throwing elbow.
But Robinson played in the final two as a running back and wide receiver. Hoke said Monday that Robinson “will play some quarterback” today. Hoke said Robinson “probably” would play at least one non-quarterback role, too, but didn’t offer details.
Different USC team
The last time USC played in the Outback Bowl was after the 2008 season. The Gamecocks lost 31-10 to Iowa – their third straight defeat to end that year. Since then, they are 37-15, including 30-9 over the past three seasons.
The only current USC players who made the trip to the Outback Bowl against Iowa are fifth-year seniors like defensive end Devin Taylor, who considered the differences between this team and that squad, which finished 7-6 and 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play – USC’s sixth non-winning conference record in seven seasons at that point.
“I’d say we have a lot more people that are being coachable and actually listening, and a lot more leaders as well,” Taylor said.
An important part of today’s game will be Michigan’s approach to blocking USC’s All-American defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney.
Will the Wolverines decide that left tackle Taylor Lewan, a likely first-round NFL draft pick, can handle Clowney one-on-one? Or will they do what many teams have done this year and keep a running back in the back field to block Clowney, or put a tight end on his side? Spurrier said Clemson slid its protection toward Clowney, using a guard and tackle to double-team him.
Of course, USC can counter by lining Clowney up against right tackle Michael Schofield or putting Clowney inside, matched up against an interior lineman – an athletic advantage for Clowney. Most times this season, Clowney has shown that he can beat one-on-one blocks.
“(Clowney) is pretty good one-on-one,” Spurrier said Monday. “I don’t know what coach Hoke has got planned for him. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow, won’t we?”
He grinned and turned to Hoke, who sat next to him. Hoke smiled and remained silent.
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