South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook expects two-sport athlete Brandon McIlwain to be back with the baseball team in January.
“He’s preparing to be with us,” Holbrook said. “He’s excited about playing baseball here.”
McIlwain, from Newtown, Pa., was viewed a potential high-round pick in the 2016 MLB draft before opting to attend USC to play football and baseball. The true freshman has played in seven games as a quarterback for Will Muschamp.
Holbrook spoke with McIlwain on Thursday about his baseball future, the coach said during a news conference to wrap up the Gamecocks’ fall baseball workouts. Holbrook and Muschamp continue to talk about handling the unique situation.
“Coach is committed to allowing him to being a big part of our baseball program,” Holbrook said of Muschamp. “He needs to get over here in January once football is over. We’re going to try to catch him up from the time he missed in the fall and see if he can be in the conversation to get in there and play. He has the talent and ability to play and be a big factor on our team.”
McIlwain played a reserve role in 2015 for Holbrook, appearing in eight games with one hit and one RBI in 10 at-bats. He spent a good bit of time in the spring practicing with the football team, then helped senior quarterback Perry Orth lead player-run practices in June.
The baseball team had skill work once school started in August, followed by six weeks of practices and scrimmages, and will continue with skill work in the coming weeks. McIlwain will miss all of that time.
“It’s difficult to play this sport if you’re not involved with it in each and every day in some capacity,” Holbrook said. “It’s very difficult, especially swinging a bat. It’s a hard enough task to hit a baseball when you’re here every day.”
In football, he is 56-of-107 passing for 567 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also has two rushing scores. He started three games but hasn’t appeared in two of the last four and has been supplanted at the starting position by fellow freshman Jake Bentley.
McIlwain is an outfielder on the baseball field.
“If he’s in that conversation to play, then things change for Brandon,” Holbrook said. “Last year he was on the outside looking in, so he should’ve focused on football. If he’s involved with baseball and he’s playing, we’ll certainly look at getting him over here a lot more. If he’s a reserve then I certainly don’t want to take him away from coach Muschamp or from football.”