Jay Urich had to make the best of the spot he was put in.
On one hand, he was the No. 3 quarterback for South Carolina as a true freshman while redshirting. That’s not a bad position. On the other, the top two passers get the lion’s share of the practice reps in-season, with him left to run the scout team (they call the No. 3 guy an “emergency” quarterback for a reason).
So Urich mimicked other quarterbacks, running offenses and plays from across the SEC. And in that, there were valuable lessons.
“I grew a lot, honestly, just being on the scout team,” Urich said. “Being able to get a lot of good reps against the defense. You’re playing against those great guys. Really just trying my best to learn every day, and feel like I got a lot better by just playing against those guys.”
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This spring, some of that order has been the same. Urich has been splitting No. 3 reps with early enrollee Dakereon Joyner. Urich said he’s also added weight, going from 194 pounds to 205, depending on the day, spread across a 6-foot-5 frame.
He came to USC as a dual-threat passer who ran for more than 2,000 yards his final two years of high school and threw for more than 4,700. He started his career at Blue Ridge and then went to Wren to play in a more wide-open offense (following a similar path as current Clemson passer Kelly Bryant).
That was a big change, and college was as well. Urich mentioned everything being more immersed, football and academics, and the new atmosphere prompted change within him as well.
“I think I’m pretty different,” Urich said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the film room. Being able to learn a lot from Jake and Scar specifically, and Danny and all those guys. Being able to learn from them, run game and stuff, has been helping me. I think being able to throw the ball, I think I‘ve progressed in that area.”
That film room work was important because outside preseason and some early practices before the bowl, he didn’t have that many chances to run the “South Carolina” offense before this spring, save for player-run work.
But he did one thing to get more out of his job on the scout team.
“Trying to go through my reads even though we’re not running the same plays,” Urich said. “Still going through my reads and trying my best to emulate what it would be like.”
One thing that might help is the veteran hand of Dan Werner running the quarterbacks room. Urich came to Columbia as a bit of a developmental passer under Kurt Roper, who had extensive experience working under David Cutcliffe. But Werner has a lengthy resume himself, having tutored the likes of Ole Miss stars Chad Kelly and Bo Wallace, plus Heisman winner Gino Torretta and first-team All-American Ken Dorsey at Miami.
Werner has had an impact on all of USC’s passers, and Urich appreciated things he’s done off the field, such as inviting the quarterbacks to dinner. But on the field, there’s an area or two the elder coach has really helped with.
“I think more confidence in my reads,” Urich said. “I think that’s one thing that’s helped me a lot. Footwork’s another thing that I’ve been working on, all of us have. So I definitely say, a lot of the little details, he’s been good with.”