The state of South Carolina’s tight end position: deeply uncertain.
The same can be said for a few of the other spots, but there are not many with such a lack of bodies. Look at the roster, and one finds only three listed players at the position.
And it’s not as if Kurt Roper’s new offense doesn’t make use of the tight ends.
At the moment, the Gamecocks’ listed stocks at the position are made up of two scholarship players in K.C. Crosby and Kyle Markway, both with limited experience, plus walk-on Jacob August. They’ll get reinforced with a couple true freshmen, and walk-on Hayden Hurst could bounce back there after playing receiver last season, but it leaves the group incredibly green.
Although August had the most raw production of the group after last year, his playing time dropped off in a big way after seeing time early (the team struggled most of the year looking for consistent blocking from the second tight end).
Now-graduated Jerell Adams handled almost all of the receiving duties for the group and was a key to the offense with the number of spots he could line up. But the staff never really used him in the way history shows Roper used the position.
Adams usually lined up next to the line or split out as a wide receiver. He wasn’t asked to move around much as a blocker after the team lined up or after the snap.
Film shows Roper wants his primary tight ends to move around on almost every play, using them in more of what’s called an H-back role. His tight ends usually shift before the snap, which reveals something about the defense and can reset the gaps up front in the running game (remember Jon Hoke’s comments about “gap control” last season? This makes it harder).
Then once the ball was snapped, tight ends were often counted on to move across the formation to make their blocks, opening up more on the ground. There is some work for a traditional tight end, but not as much.
In theory, this would best suit Crosby. Where Markway and August are both on the bigger side, Crosby came to Columbia with a reputation as a raw and mobile athlete. At 6-foot-4, 242 pounds, Hurst had potential, but blocking was reportedly part of the reason he ended up at wide receiver last season.
Crosby split out often in high school. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said last season he’d be ideally suited for a “move” role that requires that mobility. He’s still a little light at 226 pounds and will probably have to improve his blocking.
Both incoming freshmen Evan Hinson and Robert Tucker Jr. have the potential to grow into those roles, but tight ends often have to possess an expansive view of the game that usually comes with time.
So at the moment, Crosby growing into his talent or Hurst breaking out could take on paramount importance. Unless something drastic changes, Roper’s tight ends carry a crucial load, and the Gamecocks need someone to shoulder it.