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South Carolina Has Bright Future at QB

By Dave Holcomb
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Much to the delight of South Carolina fans, that bright future was on full display when the team played its annual spring game on Saturday.

South Carolina is still a year away from needing to replace quarterback Jake Bentley. In most cases, it’s hard to fill the shoes of a three-year starter, especially behind center, but at South Carolina, the Gamecocks appear to have a bright future at the position.

Much to the delight of South Carolina fans, that bright future was on full display when the team played its annual spring game on Saturday.

The biggest reason for the bright future behind center for the Gamecocks is incoming freshman Ryan Hilinski, who is involved in a competition with redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner for the backup role behind Bentley.

Hilinski arrived in Columbia as a 4-star prospect and the No. 2-ranked pro-styled signal caller in the 2019 recruiting class. He committed to South Carolina almost a year ago and never changed his mind despite reported offers from top-notch football programs across the country.

On top of that, he won fans hearts with how he handled the tragedy of losing his older brother and former Washington State quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, who committed suicide in January 2018. As trivial as this sounds, the adversity Hilinski will face on the field will be miniscule to what he went through with that tragedy.

Of course, South Carolina fans probably already know all of this. Hilinski comes to the Gamecocks as one of the most anticipated recruits in program history.

Coach Will Muschamp certainly likes what he sees in his freshman signal caller.

“Really good,” Muschamp said according to The Post and Courier when asked about Hilinski’s first practice in pads in March. “None of you guys or me could have done it, to graduate early from high school. That shows a lot about maturity and handling your business, and it says a lot about those young men. It’s been a really smooth situation, in my opinion, for all of those guys.”

That’s about as glowing of a report Muschamp has provided on his popular young quarterback. He and his staff have tried to temper expectations for the 18-year-old, saying that they won’t name a No. 2 quarterback until training camp.

Maybe the most interesting part about the arrival of Hilinski, though, is how it could affect Bentley. The senior-to-be struggled in the final two games last season, posting a completion percentage below 47.0 for an average of 6.3 yards per attempt. He also had three touchdowns and four interceptions.

It’s not like those contests were against Alabama and Clemson. Bentley actually tore up the Tigers secondary right after Thanksgiving and then posted those underwhelming numbers against Akron and Virginia to end the season.

Backup quarterbacks tend to be one of the most popular figures among the fanbase, but if the Hilinski hype continues to rise, how much pressure will Bentley begin to feel?

South Carolina doesn’t have to look far -- just across the state -- to see what the hype of an incoming freshman can do.

In the Clemson spring game last season, the pressure of having Trevor Lawrence definitely hurt Kelly Bryant, who missed multiple open receivers in the Tigers’ gloried scrimmage. By Week 2, Clemson had a quarterback controversy because Lawrence was taking snaps away from Bryant.

By no means is Hilinski as good of a prospect as Lawrence, but Bentley also hasn’t led his team to the College Football Playoffs as Bryant did.

All of this could lead to one interesting offseason for South Carolina, and it will all started yesterday as the early enrollee went 24/36 for 206 yards in the spring game.