Grad assistant Zeb Noland to start at quarterback for South Carolina Gamecocks

Zeb Noland is going from coach to starting quarterback at South Carolina.

Noland, who came to South Carolina as a graduate assistant on Shane Beamer's coaching staff, will be the Gamecocks' starter at quarterback when they open the season Saturday against Eastern Illinois.

Expected starter Luke Doty injured his left foot earlier this preseason, and Beamer said it was realistic to think that Doty "can get really close to 100%" next week entering the East Carolina game on Sept. 11.

But Doty's injury resulted in Noland trading in his coaching gear for a helmet and shoulder pads and joining in the race for the Gamecocks' quarterback job.

Noland has been sharing reps in practice with redshirt senior Jason Brown, who transferred to South Carolina from St. Francis, an FCS school in Pennsylvania. Brown will serve as the backup for the opener, according to the depth chart that was released Tuesday.

Noland thought he had finished his playing career in May when his North Dakota State team lost to Sam Houston State in the FCS quarterfinals. He then landed a spot as a grad assistant on Beamer's staff, but still had a year of eligibility remaining.

Even before Doty was injured, Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield joked this summer that Noland might be needed at some point this season.

Little did anybody know that it would be the opener.

Noland, who started his playing career at Iowa State before transferring to North Dakota State, backed up 2020 NFL first-round draft pick Trey Lance with the Bison before starting this past spring. Noland and Lance have remained close friends.

Beamer said Noland had been the most efficient quarterback since Doty's injury and that his experience was a big factor in his getting the start for the opener.

During his final season at North Dakota State, the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Noland passed for 721 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games.

"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 said Tuesday. "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."

Beamer said Doty was at practice Tuesday in tennis shoes and was no longer in a protective boot.