One of the wackiest situations in the SEC this season has been South Carolina’s quarterback situation.
Because of injuries, a member of South Carolina’s coaching staff started at quarterback in the opening two games for the Gamecocks (2-0). They play at No. 2 UGA (2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Zeb Noland is a 24-year old who joined South Carolina as a graduate assistant coach this past summer after playing quarterback at Iowa State and North Dakota State. Noland had another year of college eligibility remaining, but he initially bypassed it to begin his coaching career.
However, Noland’s coaching career has to wait a little bit longer.
When starter Luke Doty suffered a foot injury in fall camp, South Carolina abruptly turned to Noland to lead the team to wins against Eastern Illinois and East Carolina.
However, Noland’s Cinderella story could be over, as Gamecocks first-year coach Shane Beamer told reporters on Sunday night that he expected Doty to be 100 percent by the UGA game:
“We’re not going to say ‘Well, let’s wait another week. (Doty has) got to get out there and get game action at some point. Luke’s a competitor. So whether it’s against Georgia, Eastern Illinois, or the Green Bay Packers, when we put him out there -- we’ll put him out there.”
Back to Noland: The UGA game will be a homecoming for Noland, as he played high school ball at Oconee County High School, which is located 10 miles from Sanford Stadium. His father is still the head football coach at the school.
“In regards to Zeb … (he’s) a kid that went to high school in Athens, family still lives over there, dad is coach at Oconee County, and he didn’t get recruited by Georgia out of high school,” Beamer said. “There’s certainly going to be some nostalgia for him, but Zeb’s an older guy that will handle that well and not let the emotions get to him”
In two games at South Carolina, Noland has completed 26 of 45 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns, along with one interception.
The happy-go-lucky Beamer gets fired up when people make it seem like he pulled Noland out of nowhere at the last minute to start in the mighty SEC. It is indeed a crazy situation, but Beamer’s plan doesn’t sound quite as wacky when he talks it out at length to reporters.
“I know what the narrative may be out there, so let’s forget about it and lose the narrative that (Noland) hasn’t played a football game in two or three years and he was walking up and down the hall like Uncle Rico talking about what he did back in the day as a quarterback,” Beamer told ESPN’s Chris Lowe. “He played quarterback a couple of months ago -- three months ago. He’s been a graduate assistant coach since June.
“Like I told you when we activated him to our roster, he’s played in a college football game a hell of a lot more recently than anybody on our team. Is it a little bit unique? Yes. But it wasn’t like he played a few years ago. He played a few months ago.”
This past spring, Noland played quarterback in seven games at North Dakota State, after serving as a backup to NFL first-rounder Trey Lance during the 2020 season.