Luke Doty continues momentum toward securing South Carolina's starting quarterback role

Eric Boynton
South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty (South Carolina Athletics Photo)

It will be just a few days past five months this Saturday since Luke Doty took over the No. 1 quarterback role at halftime of a home loss to Missouri in the abbreviated season's eighth game.

He had begun the year not only in the third-string role behind eventual starter Collin Hill and incumbent starter Ryan Hilinski, but he had begun to work the majority of his snaps at wide receiver with the coaches eager to make use of his top-shelf athleticism.

Now Doty, a 19-year-old former Myrtle Beach High standout, will begin this weekend's annual spring game as (for now) the unquestioned starter in front of 15,000 fans, which is slightly more than those in attendance to see his first meaningful snaps as a Gamecock.

"It's a feeling like nothing else in that stadium with those fans," Doty said this week. "It gives me chills just thinking about it."

He started last year's final two games and finished his first season completing 43 of 71 passing for 405 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed 41 times for 91 yards. Hill and Hilinski are now gone, as is then-offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, and Doty's competition is now freshman Colten Gauthier, FCS transfer Jason Brown and third-year walk-on Connor Jordan.

“I feel I’ve done a really good job of stepping into that role of being the main leader on offense and on the team," Doty said. "I’ve learned a lot, and this spring has been huge as far as playing the position. I got thrown into it at the end of last year, which I’m so grateful for. It has slowed things down now."

USC coach Shane Beamer said, “I think you go back to last year, (Doty) really didn’t get a spring practice at all. He didn’t get normal summer prep and all that stuff in a lot of ways. It was crazy for all of us, but especially a true freshman last season, and especially at quarterback.

Beamer continued, "He’s a very intelligent young man, understanding the offense and learning what we’re asking him to do. He’s been fantastic and that part has been awesome. The poise, confidence and leadership he's shown. He’s been spectacular there."

Quarterback Luke Doty (4) started two games in 2020, but opens the spring in competition for the job in 2021.

Doty's all-around athleticism is unquestioned, hence the momentary decision to give him a look at receiver, but the few flashes of excellence he displayed during last season's brief stint came via his ability to scramble. There was very little in the way of throwing highlights, although due to opt-outs and injuries the receiving corps was depleted.

He received immediate rave reviews for his boundless energy and ability to command the room and huddle despite his youth and inexperience.

 "Luke has always been the same guy since Day One. His mentality hasn't changed," redshirt junior wide receiver Dakereon Joyner said. "He's always been a Day One leader. Physically he's gotten bigger, faster and stronger, and mentally he's gotten a lot smarter and is really starting to understand the position. Being a little more patient now. His arm has always been smooth. I don't know why people say it's not."

Of course, quarterbacks are off-limits from being hit during practice, so Doty's ability to run hasn't meant much this spring. Beamer admitted he's probably a little quick whistling plays dead when the pass rush is upon Doty, leading to some good-natured post-practice give-and-take between the quarterback and his defensive teammates.

"We always come in from practice or from a scrimmage and talk a little smack to the defense -- '(I) probably could've got out of that one or that definitely wouldn't have been a sack,' " Doty said. "I do think that quick whistle comes into play a little bit."

South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty throws a pass during the second half against Kentucky on Dec. 5, 2020.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield is more interested in studying Doty's prowess as a thrower anyway, helping him develop that part of his game.

“I think his legs and lower body are crucial and I know what they can do from an athletic standpoint extending the play, off-schedule plays, designed quarterback runs,” Satterfield said. “I think we all know what that can be. The cool thing for us is now forcing him in the spring to not use his legs. We can have him go run around and try to beat the defense, but we will not have developed him in the right way.”

Doty has been taking nicely to the new offense by all accounts and looking back to last spring seems like an eternity in terms of how far he's come.

“I’m definitely pretty comfortable with it," he said. "It’s crazy how much of a difference a year makes, your understanding of concepts, where the defense is going. I have a lot more to learn, but feel I’m in a good spot. I can tell whenever I get out there and see the defense it’s starting to click and things are slowing down. I can’t wait to continue to get better at it and elevate my game.”