Brown, a redshirt senior transfer from FCS school St. Francis in Pennsylvania, remembers the day his former school gathered the entire team and coaching staff over Zoom to inform them that their spring season had been canceled. No heads up. No warning. Brown said he lost trust in the school that day, and he entered the transfer portal because of it.
And then there’s the freshman Gauthier, who said he played for four different offensive coordinators and three different head coaches at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia. He had to learn a new system each year.
Now both players find themselves on a South Carolina football team that is going through its own transition. A new head coach. A new staff. A new offense. But compared to their previous stops, both players have found a sense of comfort this spring.
“It was kind of hard to grow (in high school), but now I’m in a stable offense. I’m with stable people,” Gauthier said Thursday. “And I think I’m opening some eyes, especially how high my ceiling is, how much I can improve each and every day, when I know I have stability and people I can rely on.”
A 6-foot-3 long-haired gunslinger, Gauthier said he never wavered in his commitment to the Gamecocks, even after the coaching change from Will Muschamp to Shane Beamer. Gauthier said he committed to the place — to Columbia and USC — and not to particular set of coaches.
Beamer even praised Gauthier for rallying to keep USC’s 2021 recruiting class together. He showed leadership traits before stepping on campus.
An early enrollee, Gauthier has been battling for reps with Brown behind incumbent Luke Doty, who seized the starting job late last season as a freshman and opened this spring at the top of the depth chart. Beamer and new offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield have both praised Doty for his development as a leader and for his dual-threat ability at quarterback.
But both Gauthier and Brown have shown flashes, as well. Gauthier has turned heads with his sheer arm strength, while Brown brings collegiate experience and polish.
“Gauthier didn’t surprise me, but it’s shocking how much offense we have in right now and how he should be a senior in high school now and he’s been able to learn it, execute it,” Satterfield said. “ … Like we threw a ton on that kid. And he’s done a really, really nice job. And his size, he’s put on some weight. He’s almost 220 pounds. You can feel his presence out there. Elite arm talent and just really excited where his game is going.
“J.B., he’s been in college, so we expected him to have a certain maturity about him. He’s shown that. I think he’s worked really, really hard, and he’s come from more of a true spread-type offense and is coming into a more pro-style scheme now. So he’s adapting to what we’re doing, but he’s made some really good throws and flashed.”
On Thursday, both Gauthier and Brown discussed adjusting to Satterfield’s scheme. Though the system represents a sizable jump from the many systems he ran in high school, Gauthier said he loves that the Gamecocks will huddle as an offense, saying it provides a quarterback with more of an opportunity to lead on the field. 247Sports Composite rankings have Gauthier as a three-star pro-style quartberback.
Brown, who enrolled in mid-March and missed the team’s first practice due to an undisclosed illness, said he’d be lying if he called the adjustment “easy.” Communication, he said, is a key focus for him as he transitions from a spread offense to a pro-style scheme. Even though he has FCS experience — he threw for a school-record 3,084 yards in 2019 — Brown said SEC football is on a different level.
“It’s a lot faster,” Brown said. “I really have to know where I’m going with the football, and I can’t make any mistakes because those guys on defense are coached really well, and they know exactly what they’re doing. And they know how to try to get in our heads as well, with mixing up coverages and mixing up blitzes and faking blitzes and things like that.
“So I really have to know what I’m doing, and I really have to study them and learn as best as I can because it’s fast and it’s challenging. But I love it. It’s fun.”
Throughout the learning process, both quarterbacks have taken advantage of Satterfield’s open-door policy and have studied film with him, sometimes for hours, in his office after lifting sessions. Although they’re competing for reps along with Doty and sophomore Connor Jordan, the quarterbacks said they’ve already built a tight-knit relationship.
“Those guys are great,” Brown said. “I love those guys. We go in there and compete every day. We watch film together all the time. We work on our footwork and other things like that every single day with each other. We talk every single day, outside of football, as well. We’re really close. It’s a really tight room.
“The competition has been great. … We’re competing in everything we do, and that’s what drives us to be great.”