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USATSI

Former Iowa State and North Dakota State quarterback Zeb Noland will start at quarterback for South Carolina after originally joining the Gamecocks as a member of the coaching staff, according to ESPN

Noland came to South Carolina as a graduate assistant on coach Shane Beamer's first staff with the Gamecocks. But after presumed starter Luke Doty suffered a football injury during camp, Noland opted to use his NCAA-granted sixth year of eligibility to play for South Carolina. 

The Watkinsville, Georgia, product previously played for North Dakota State and Iowa State before switching his focus to coaching. As a redshirt senior for the Bison, he completed 51% of his passes, threw five touchdowns to six interceptions and led the team with 740 yards of total offense. 

Noland beat out fellow former FCS quarterback Jason Brown for the starting job. Brown transferred to South Carolina from St. Francis (PA). 

Noland's unique path

Just three months ago, Noland was a member of the North Dakota State football team. He entered the 2020 season as Trey Lance's backup, but eventually earned the starting job when Lance left early to enter the 2021 NFL Draft

However, Noland struggled in the role, especially as multiple Bison players departed before the spring for the NFL Draft. Eventually, he lost the starting job to freshman Cam Miller after North Dakota State lost multiple regular season games for the first time since 2015. Noland opted to give up football and focus on coaching as an SEC graduate assistant. 

But over that time period, South Carolina experienced a wave of attrition at quarterback. Incumbent starter Colin Hill graduated and opted not to return. Backup Ryan Hilinski used his free transfer to land at Big Ten finalist Northwestern. When the freshman Doty injured his foot, it left South Carolina without a single quarterback with game experience at South Carolina. 

With Brown, true freshman Colten Gauthier and walk-ons as the only options, the coaching staff gave Noland the chance to compete. 

"We weren't discussing it before Luke [Doty] got hurt," Beamer told The Athletic. "This is not a situation where we are desperate for QBs. It's not like I walked around the corner to Budweiser and the loading dock and asked if anybody played high school QB." 

South Carolina starts the year Saturday against Eastern Illinois in Columbia, South Carolina. However, the Gamecocks travel to Georgia in Week 3, so there won't be much time for a learning curve.