The first doubter of note was a middle school coach.
Dakereon Joyner had caught the eye of Fort Dorchester High football coach Steve LaPrad with absurd athleticism during a middle school combine. The high school coach asked a middle school counterpart who the heck that kid was.
“That’s Joyner, he wants to be a quarterback,” LaPrad recalled hearing with a particular skeptical tone. “He won’t stay in the pocket.”
In some ways, that has never really gone away.
Joyner has thrown for 6,000-plus yards the past two seasons. He’s helmed one of the most dynamic offensives in the state, done damage with run-pass option plays and earned a scholarship to South Carolina. But it still comes up: Recruiting analysts or coaching staffs ask whether this dynamic athlete who often improvises can fully thrive as a passer.
He got no sense of that from South Carolina’s staff.
“They believed in me,” Joyner said. “Coach (Will) Muchamp, the first thing he did is he called me and said, ‘I believe in you.’ And he re-offered me and he kind of reiterated that it was a quarterback offer. That was the only college coach that really believed in me since day one and I just want to thank him.”
The Gamecocks are one year into the Kurt Roper era on offense, but the team didn’t shy away from deploying quarterbacks who could run. While Jake Bentley and Perry Orth are more naturally pocket passers, both had some called run plays for them, and Brandon McIlwain started three games as a dual-threat QB.
While USC has struggled to find someone to fit that bill and thrive the past few years, Joyner felt his skills could not only work but are necessary.
“They definitely needed a dual-threat guy,” Joyner said. “Jake Bentley does an incredible job. But in some places, where they shut down the run game and the running back or shut down the pass game. A dual-threat quarterback kind of plays a big part inside the game. He’s kind of the eraser. If the play breaks down, he can make it happen.”
He’s run for at least 1,000 yards the past two season, and his highlight tapes are littered with dynamic moves on the run.
LaPrad remembered a bit of a wild thrower when the two first started working together back when Joyner was in seventh grade. He’s honed that, and although there were reports he wasn’t quite as smooth as some in The Opening and Elite 11 work, his coach is confident in where he fits in.
“Let me tell you something,” LaPrad said. “There’s no doubt he’s a quarterback, and he is a daggone good athlete. But he’s going to make somebody very, very happy.”