HOOVER, Ala. – Steve Spurrier makes no bones about it: Dylan Thompson is South Carolina's starting quarterback.
In fact, there isn't anyone else even close.
"Dylan Thompson is going to be our quarterback," Spurrier said Tuesday during the SEC football media days here. "Hopefully he can stay healthy the entire season. We really believe he is a very good player, has a chance to lead us to a big season.
Thompson has had his moments with the Gamecocks, leading the team to a win at archrival Clemson in 2012 and taking over early for an injured Connor Shaw in leading USC to a win at Central Florida last year.
Thompson, a redshirt senior, is ready for the challenge, but doesn't take it lightly.
"I knew there would be some hype about me when Coach Spurrier named me the starter," Thompson said. "But I threw four touchdown passes last year and had three interceptions. There's not a lot there to be hyped.
"I've got to go out on the field and prove I can compete. That's what this team has to do."
Despite Thompson's relative lack of experience, Spurrier appears to have confidence in him. He might point to Thompson's 3-0 record as a starter and apperances in 20 other games.
But Spurrier saw something in Thompson back when he was a lightly recruited quarterback at Boiling Springs High. Spurrier observed Thompson as he was participating in a summer camp at USC and quickly offered him a scholarship that was almost as quickly accepted.
"He's got to pack his college career into one season," Spurrier said. "He's the type of young man that really wants to make the most of it. Hopefully that will happen for all of us."
His relationship with Spurrier is something Thompson believes has helped him both on and off the field.
"Coach is awesome," Thompson said. "Every time someone asks me how it is playing for him, I say it is just a blast. When I got to South Carolina, I knew he was a perfectionist, so that's been awesome to be able to work with him.
"You'll have a decent game, and he's just not satisfied. That's what I love about him."
Thompson appears to be making the most of his opportunity. He has taken a leadership role, and his teammates appear ready to follow him.
"He is just that guy," said senior guard A. J. Cann, Thompson's roommate and best friend. "He was blessed with the ability to lead. He is very vocal. When he is around the team, when we're at practice or anywhere, you can hear him across the field in the weight room. 'Come on, guys, let's go. We can do this.'
"You see him playing that leadership role. He's just got it."
While many of the big names that have dotted the Gamecocks' roster in recent years are no longer around, Thompson thinks this team has responded by working harder to prove it can accomplish or better what the Gamecocks have done in the past four seasons. That's a tall order, considering USC went 42-11, including three consecutive 11-win seasons.
"I'm just so ready to go play and know that I'm the guy. More than that, I think our team has been really good in the offseason, just buying in. Not just me, but I think a lot of guys have a big year ahead."