North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is the headliner in the Tar Heels’ season-opener against South Carolina, but Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler could end up as the bigger story.
A former five-star prospect and the top-ranked quarterback from the class of 2019, Rattler looked like the next Heisman candidate quarterback for then-Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley in Norman after completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,031 yards (9.6 yards per attempt) and 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions as a freshman.
His completion percentage improved to 74.9 percent as a sophomore, but Rattler was benched for 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams in the Red River Showdown and only threw 12 passes the rest of the 2021 season.
Rattler was uneven in his first year at South Carolina. His completion percentage dipped to 66.2 percent, and he threw 12 interceptions, the same number as he threw at Oklahoma during his two-plus years there.
He saved his best game for a stunning 63-38 upset over Tennessee in which Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker tore his ACL.
In that game, Rattler was 30-of-37 for 438 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
Even the greatest quarterbacks rarely have those kinds of games, but Rattler was much too inconsistent last year, throwing an interception in eight of South Carolina’s 13 games, including two interceptions four times.
That win against Tennessee was a reminder that Rattler is still the talented quarterback scouts praised coming out of high school and gives the Gamecocks hope for 2023.
Maye, a five-star recruit in the class of 2021 and the No. 4 prospect of the 2024 NFL Draft in Mel Kiper’s big board heading into the season, is sure to have some big moments on Saturday night, and Rattler has the talent to match him.
That’s South Carolina’s only chance at winning, and if Rattler goes toe-to-toe with Maye, look out for the Gamecocks rustling some feathers in the SEC all season.