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Former Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland went to South Carolina as a graduate assistant in the offseason after spending a couple seasons at North Dakota State as both a backup and starting quarterback.
But after an injury to Gamecocks starting quarterback Luke Doty, Noland — who had an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and who was already enrolled in classes thanks to his graduate program — will be the starting quarterback for South Carolina this Saturday against Eastern Illinois (6 p.m., ESPN+) while still maintaining his graduate-assistant position.
"Let's lose the narrative that (Noland) hasn't played a football game in two or three years and he was walking up and down the hall like Uncle Rico (from the 2004 comedy “Napoleon Dynamite”), talking about what he did back in the day as a quarterback," South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer said Tuesday according to ESPN. "He played quarterback a couple of months ago — three months ago. He's been a graduate assistant coach since June.
"Like I said when we activated him to our roster, he's played in a college football game a hell of a lot more recently than anybody on our team. Is it a little bit unique? Yes. But it wasn't like he played a few years ago. He played a few months ago."
In 2017, as a redshirt freshman with Iowa State, he threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns against then-No. 5 Oklahoma — numbers Uncle Rico could only dream of. The Cyclones lost by 10, and the next week, Brock Purdy burst on the scene against Oklahoma State.
Noland transferred to NDSU in the offseason but has kept in contact with Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell.
“I’m excited for Zeb,” Campbell said. “He had texted me when he was going to go to South Carolina as a graduate assistant. To get his first experience going there as a coach, I thought it would be really good for Zeb to start his career.
“I’m sure Zeb’s gone in there and been a huge asset in terms of helping the players prepare. I think it makes sense that this opportunity came his way and he was able to capitalize on this opportunity. I’m a big Zeb fan, from recruiting him at the University of Toledo to recruiting him here, his family, what he’s about, what he stands for — Zeb’s a great kid. I think he can do a great job for those guys.”