Zeb Noland came to South Carolina to be a graduate assistant on Shane Beamer's staff after spending four years between Iowa State and North Dakota State as a quarterback. But he will end up playing for the Gamecocks before he ever coaches for them.
South Carolina starter Luke Doty suffered an injury during fall camp, so the Gamecocks needed Noland — who still has one year of eligibility remaining — to take reps in practice just to have adequate depth. But as fate would have it, he'll begin the season as an SEC starting quarterback. Noland backed up Trey Lance at NDSU before playing more in the FCS season this spring, in which the Bison lost to Sam Houston State in the playoff quarterfinals. He threw for just over 700 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions in the spring.
South Carolina probably isn't going to be great in Beamer's first season, but what a story it would be if Noland comes in and lights it up and at least keeps the job for the 2021 season. If he can even lead the Gamecocks to a bowl game, that would be one of the more remarkable stories in college football in recent memory.
I won't be rooting for an SEC East rival, but I would love to see Noland come in and turn some heads. I think he'll be fine delaying his coaching career for a season if he can make some noise in the SEC. We'll see how he looks when the Gamecocks open against Eastern Illinois on Saturday.