Though still learning, USC quarterback Luke Doty has grown in this key area

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When South Carolina offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield turned on last year’s game film and studied Luke Doty for the first time, he saw a quarterback who rarely threw from the pocket.

In the two games Doty started as a freshman, then-coordinator Mike Bobo had Doty on the move constantly — rollouts, bootlegs, designed runs — and Satterfield wondered how the young quarterback would adjust to an NFL-style offense.

Through four games with Doty as the primary QB, the Gamecocks have gone 1-3 and the offense has sputtered against SEC defenses. Doty’s play, however, has gradually improved as he’s shaken off the rust from a preseason foot injury that sidelined him until Week 3.

Where Satterfield has seen Doty grow the most is as a pocket passer and at the line of scrimmage, directing an offense that borrows elements from Satterfield’s last coaching stop with the Carolina Panthers.

“We are operating an offense they operate on Sundays, and a lot of our passing concepts you can watch on Sunday nights and on Thursday Night Football,” Satterfield said Wednesday. “And he’s able to go in there and execute the protection and go through the progression and get the balls out and get completions, which when I got here and watched him play the first time on tape, he wasn’t getting a chance to do that.

“When we started this thing, it was kind of new to him. And then just to watch him progress from the spring to the summer to where he is now, I think he’s doing a really nice job.”

Since stepping in for an injured Zeb Noland in the first quarter at Georgia, Doty has completed 59.5% of his passes and averaged 183.3 passing yards per game. He’s taken care of the football, throwing just one interception on the season. While he’s mostly played clean, he’s also thrown just three touchdowns.

Finishing drives is the next step in Doty’s — and the USC offense’s — progression.

“We come out in the first quarter and we go three and out, three and out, maybe get a drive going and stall out, so really it’s just about finishing drives and starting fast,” Doty said this week. “That’s something that we put an emphasis on is just starting practice fast in the things that we do and just carrying that momentum throughout the practice, not stalling out, not hitting a low.”

The Tennessee game was emblematic of the kind of struggles the USC offense has experienced this year, but it also offered a glimpse of promise.

After quickly falling behind 35-0, Doty and the Gamecocks started to find a groove in the tail end of the first half and carried it into the second, with running back Kevin Harris punching in a pair of rushing touchdowns to seal two strong drives.

To make any sort of run in the SEC, the Gamecock offense needs to click faster. Satterfield knows it, and Doty knows it. The time for easing in a young quarterback is long past.

“We can’t keep saying, ‘Well, this is only his fifth start, this is only his sixth start,’ ” Satterfield said. “There’s a time where he’s got to just go. And I think he’s risen, he’s attacking that mindset. I’d say throwing the football right now, he keeps getting a little bit better each week.”

South Carolina vs Vanderbilt game info

  • Who: South Carolina Gamecocks (3-3, 0-3 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-4, 0-2 SEC)

  • Where: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.

  • When: 4 p.m. Saturday

  • TV: SEC Network

  • Stream: via ESPN app

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