Grading South Carolina's Last 20 QB Changes

With Dylan Thompson now with the San Francisco 49ers, the South Carolina Gamecocks will have a new quarterback for the 2015 season.

While no one can be certain how the transition from Thompson to Mitch (or Orth or Scarnecchia) will go, we can take a look back at some of South Carolina's more successful (and unsuccessful) quarterback changes.

Here are the grades for South Carolina's last 20 quarterback changes:

1984 (Allen Mitchell to Mike Hold) / Grade: A

Mitchell, the incumbent from 1983, began the season as the starter, but Hold made his mark in the second game of the season with a 62-yard bomb to Ira Hillary that led to a 17-10 victory over Georgia. Although Hold did not become the permanent starter, the junior college transfer became South Carolina's main passing quarterback. Using a 1-2 punch of Mitchell and Hold, the Gamecocks improved from 5-6 in 1983 to 10-2 in 1984. Hold wound up throwing for 1,385 yards and eight touchdowns and led the Gamecocks to comeback wins over Georgia, Notre Dame, N.C. State, and Clemson. South Carolina's offense averaged 30.9 points per game, 11th-most in the country. Over a six-week span in October and November, the Gamecocks scored 49, 45, 36, 42, 35, and 38 points.

2011 (Stephen Garcia to Connor Shaw) / Grade: A-

Shaw was named the starter prior to the season opener against East Carolina. After the Gamecocks fell behind 17-0, Garcia was brought in to lead the comeback. Garcia remained the starter for the first five games of the season, but was benched following a 9-for-23 performance with two interceptions in a 16-13 loss to Auburn. Shaw was instilled as the starter the following week against Kentucky and threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns in his second career start. Garcia was dismissed from the team just days later and Shaw became the starter for the remainder of the season. Shaw led the Gamecocks to a 7-1 finish for the year, including South Carolina's first bowl win since 2006 and the program's first 11-win season in history. In just two-thirds of a season, Shaw threw for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

1973 (Dobby Grossman to Jeff Grantz) / Grade: A-

Grossman had burst onto the scene in 1972 as a redshirt freshman against Memphis, but Grantz appeared in the VMI game and, after a 4-7 campaign, Grantz held the job entering the 1973 season as head coach Paul Dietzel installed the veer offense. In the opener against Georgia Tech, Grantz rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns while passing for 79 yards and tow more scores. The Associated Press named Grantz the "Back of the Week" for his performance against the Yellow Jackets. After a pair of rough weeks, Grantz set the school record for rushing yards against Ohio with 260 yards on the ground and added an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The sophomore ended the year by leading the Gamecocks to a 32-20 victory over Clemson on a sprained ankle to cap a 7-4 season. 

2005 (Syvelle Newton to Blake Mitchell) / Grade: B+

Newton won Lou Holtz's quarterback carousel in 2004 during Holtz's final season in Columbia, but Mitchell won the job entering Steve Spurrier's first year at the helm. The former Elite 11 quarterback went through some struggles during the early portion of the season as South Carolina scored just 36 points in the first three SEC games of the season. However, the Gamecocks turned it around during a five-game conference winning streak that included wins over Tennessee on the road and at home against Florida. Newton also appeared at quarterback throughout the season, tossing a pair of touchdowns in a win against Vanderbilt. Under Spurrier's wide-open offense, Mitchell passed for 2,370 yards, the most for a Gamecock since 1995. 

2008 (Blake Mitchell to Chris Smelley) / Grade: B+

Mitchell brought in the Steve Spurrier era, but the Gamecocks missed a bowl game for the first time since 2004 in his final season, which featured Smelley posting a 4-2 record as a starter. After Mitchell's graduation, the starting job was given to Tommy Beecher for the season opener against N.C. State. However, Beecher tossed four interceptions and opened the door for Smelley to take over. Smelley handled the starting job for most of the season, although he was pushed for playing time by Stephen Garcia. The Gamecocks did earn a bowl bid for the 2008 season, but Smelley started in a 31-14 loss to Clemson and was passed over for Garcia in the bowl game. Smelley wound up throwing for 1,922 yards. 

1996 (Steve Taneyhill to Anthony Wright) / Grade: B

Taneyhill set 10 school passing records during his time in Columbia. South Carolina went 4-6-1 in Taneyhill's senior campaign and Wright became the Gamecocks' second starting quarterback under Brad Scott. Wright, who drew comparisons to Scott's former Heisman-winning quarterback Charlie Ward, experienced some growing pains, as South Carolina's passing attack only managed eight touchdowns on the season. The Gamecocks wind up riding tailback Duce Staley for most of the year, as Wright was not much of a threat in the ground game, gaining just 90 yards on 97 carries. However, Wright led South Carolina to a 34-31 win over 22nd-ranked Clemson, the team's first victory over a ranked opponent since 1993, to give the Gamecocks a 6-5 record. 

2009 (Chris Smelley to Stephen Garcia) / Grade: B

Smelley left the Gamecock football program after 2008 to play baseball at Alabama, leaving Garcia as the unquestioned starter for the 2009 campaign. Garcia, Spurrier's most heralded quarterback recruit, fired 432 passes on the year, the 2nd-most in school history. By the first week of November, Garcia was the only quarterback in the SEC to have four 300-yard passing games. He threw for a career-high 327 yards in a loss to Arkansas and tossed three touchdown passes in South Carolina's first win over Clemson since 2006. However, Garcia ended the season by throwing for under 200 yards in the final three games of the year, the longest such streak for the Gamecock passing game since Spurrier's first season in Columbia. 

2014 (Connor Shaw to Dylan Thompson) / Grade: B-

Shaw was the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history, going 27-5 as the starter for the Gamecocks. Thompson had only started three games in his first four seasons in Columbia, but took advantage of his only season as the starter, completing 270 passes in 451 attempts for 3,564 yards, all single-season records. Thompson was the first quarterback to start every game in a season for South Carolina since 2010. However, the Gamecocks had their worst statistical defense in history and Thompson was often asked to bring South Carolina back from 4th quarter deficits. Despite setting multiple school records, he became the first quarterback to throw three interceptions in multiple games in a year since 2005. 

2004 (Dondrial Pinkins to Syvelle Newton) / Grade: B-

Pinkins held the starting job in 2003, but Newton emerged as South Carolina's top quarterback option in 2004. After Pinkins went down with a shoulder injury in the second game of the season, Newton made his first career start against South Florida. Newton completed 13 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns while helping Troy Williamson set the school record for receiving yards with 210 on the night. While Pinkins continued to get starts throughout the season, Newton was the most productive. Newton came off the bench to lead the Gamecocks to a 35-32 comeback win over Arkansas for South Carolina's final victory of the season. The Gamecocks appeared bowl bound, but the team stayed home after a season-ending brawl with Clemson. 

1992 (Bobby Fuller to Steve Taneyhill) / Grade: C+

Fuller led the Gamecocks for two seasons and South Carolina's quarterback and senior Wright Mitchell was named the starter for the season opener against Georgia. However, Mitchell could only manage 76 passing yards in a 28-6 loss. During a 45-7 loss to Arkansas the following week, redshirt freshman Blake Williamson threw a late touchdown to create a quarterback controversy. Mitchell wound up leaving the program, but the Gamecocks still dropped their first five contests. Following a near revolt from his players, head coach Sparky Woods inserted true freshman Steve Taneyhill as the starter. Taneyhill led the Gamecocks to five wins in their final six games, including a Halloween victory over Tennessee and a road win at Clemson. 

1990 (Todd Ellis to Bobby Fuller) / Grade: C+

Ellis was unavailable for the final half of the 1989 season after tearing his ACL against N.C. State. South Carolina's quarterback situation looked tenuous at best until Fuller, a transfer from Appalachian State, claimed the starting role. The Gamecocks won their first three games of the season, but the season took a sour turn following a loss to eventual national champion Georgia Tech. South Carolina dropped four of its final seven games of the year, including losses to The Citadel and Clemson. In his first season as a starter, Fuller threw for 2,372 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

1983 (Gordon Beckham to Allen Mitchell) / Grade: C

Beckham had been the starter for the majority of the previous two seasons, but he had struggled to fight off wide receiver Bill Bradshaw for the starting job in 1982. New head coach Joe Morrison arrived in 1983 and brought the veer offense with him to Columbia. Mitchell, a sophomore, took over the offense and lead the Gamecocks to a 5-6 record against the toughest schedule in the nation. South Carolina did score a big win over Southern Cal, but the Gamecocks struggled at times through the air. Mitchell tossed just five touchdowns on the season while being picked off 18 times. 

1976 (Jeff Grantz to Ron Bass) / Grade: C

Grantz was one of South Carolina's most electrifying quarterbacks and was replaced by Ron Bass, a Paul Dietzel recruit. In the season opener with Appalachian State, Bass completed nine passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. The following week, Bass threw for a career-high 286 yards and two scores in a 27-17 win over Georgia Tech. Bass took the Gamecocks to a 5-2 record and a No. 19 ranking, their highest since 1970, before dropping three of the final four games of the season. Bass threw for 1,320 yards on the year and tossed nine touchdowns against 10 interceptions. South Carolina missed out on a bowl game, but had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1946-47. 

1978 (Ron Bass to Garry Harper) / Grade: C-

Bass was the first quarterback to throw for over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Tommy Suggs in 1969-70. Harper took over as a starter in 1978 and teamed up in a backfield with George Rogers and Johnnie Wright. Harper led South Carolina to a tie with 17th-ranked Kentucky and a win over 19th-ranked Georgia in the first four weeks of the season. With the tailback duo of Rogers and Wright carrying most of the load, Harper threw for over 150 yards just twice in the entire season and completed 45.9% of his passes on the year. The Gamecocks limped to a 5-5-1 finish, a slight improvement over the 5-7 mark of 1977. 

1981 (Garry Harper to Gordon Beckham) / Grade: D+

Harper took the Gamecocks to an 8-4 record in his final season as a starter and South Carolina entered 1981 with uncertainty at quarterback. Beckham took the Gamecocks to a 4-3 record before traveling to Chapel Hill to face off with 3rd-ranked North Carolina. Against the Tar Heels, Beckham completed 16-of-17 passes, a then-school record for completion percentage in a game. The Gamecocks were 6-3 before dropping games against Pacific, Clemson, and Hawaii. Beckham passed for 1,221 yards and nine touchdowns with 16 interceptions in Jim Carlen's final season. 

2003 (Corey Jenkins to Dondrial Pinkins) / Grade: D+

Jenkins got the majority of the snaps in 2002 with Pinkins coming on to start the final games of the season on the road against Florida and Clemson. Pinkins started all 12 games in 2003, but the Gamecocks finished 5-7 for the second consecutive season and managed just two wins in conference play. Pinkins did wind up throwing the two longest passes in school history, a 99-yarder to Troy Williamson against Virginia and a 98-yarder versus Ole Miss. He became the first quarterback in Division 1-A history to two touchdown passes of over 98 yards in his carer. 

1972 (Glenn Morris to Dobby Grossman) / Grade: D

Morris took the Gamecocks to a 6-5 record in 1971. Bill Troup was tabbed as the starting quarterback in 1972, but Grossman became South Carolina's top passer. Against Memphis State, Grossman entered in the third quarter and fired a touchdown pass on his first play, tossing three scores on the day in a 34-7 victory. Grossman threw two more touchdowns the following week against Appalachian State and threw for 226 yards in a loss to Miami of Ohio. Grossman finished the season with 874 yards with 11 touchdowns and South Carolina went 4-7. 

1999 (Anthony Wright to Phil Petty) / Grade: D

Wright was a solid quarterback on below-average teams as the Gamecocks finished 1-10 his senior season. Lou Holtz's first season featured six different players who completed passes. Petty started the first four games of the season for an offense that averaged 7.9 points per game, lowest in Division 1-A. South Carolina finished 0-11 and Petty threw for 803 yards. The sophomore missed five games after injuring his knee against Mississippi State. Petty finished the year with just one touchdown and seven interceptions.

2002 (Phil Petty to Corey Jenkins) / Grade: D-

Petty helped the Gamecocks go from 1-21 in his first two seasons to 17-7 with two bowl wins in his last two years in Columbia. Jenkins had appeared in spot duty during the 2001 season and entered 2002 as the starter. Although a strong runner, Jenkins was unspectacular as a passer, becoming just the second Gamecock starting quarterback to throw for less than 1,500 yards in a season. South Carolina went 5-7 on the season and Jenkins was most remembered for being stripped in the end zone by David Pollock of Georgia.

1986 (Mike Hold to Todd Ellis) / Grade: F

Hold saw the Gamecocks go from 10-2 in his junior season to 5-6 in his senior campaign. Ellis, a highly-touted redshirt freshman, inspired head coach Joe Morrison to adapt the run-and-shoot offense. Ellis tossed six interceptions in the first two games of the season, both losses to Miami and Virginia. Although Ellis became the first Gamecock quarterback in history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season, he also threw 22 interceptions and South Carolina finished 3-6-2, the fewest wins for the program since 1966.