South Carolina’s football team has a large, red-haired void to fill at the tight end position, and is short an experienced player to fit the all-around skillset the last guy possessed.
Jacob August is the most experienced tight end on the roster, but he and teammate Kyle Markway are primarily blockers. K.C. Crosby and Kiel Pollard are better in the pass game, but neither stands much taller than 6-foot-1, a little small to factor in the run game.
So who might fit the all-around role Hayden Hurst is leaving behind?
The answer might be Evan Hinson, the soon-to-be third-year player who moonlights on the basketball team. Last season, he played special teams and got a few snaps at tight end.
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But the 6-foot-4, 240-pound athlete got the seal of approval from at least one person who knows the position.
“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Hurst said. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the length. He’s still learning. He’s a young kid, just coming from basketball.”
Hurst came from his own unusual background. He joined the team in his early 20s after a minor league baseball career petered out. He started as a receiver, moved to tight end and blossomed. After leaving USC following his junior year, he’s expected to be taken in the top two rounds of the NFL draft.
Hinson was a two-sport star in high school and came to USC with the plan of playing both sports (basketball was his first love). He is averaging 10.4 minutes per game and starting games for Frank Martin’s squad.
But his future is likely still on the gridiron, especially if he can play split out and and become a factor in the run game.
“I could see him at both our Y and B positions,” Hurst said. “Flexed out in the slot or playing B and getting in there and getting physical with that.”
USC’s tight end position will be a bit of a battle. August and Crosby, who missed much of last season with a fractured bone in his leg, both have an edge in experience, and Pollard has some as well. The team returns three starting receivers and Deebo Samuel, and it remains to be seen how different the offense will look with new coordinator Bryan McClendon.
But there likely will be the need for a flexible tight end, and Hinson projects as likely USC’s most flexible option.
“He’s got a pretty high ceiling,” Hurst said. “So I’m excited to see what he can do.”