South Carolina outfielder and quarterback Brandon McIlwain will get an opportunity to focus on baseball this spring, as long as he is contributing for Chad Holbrook’s club.
McIlwain, a projected high-round pick in baseball before enrolling at USC in January 2016, had 10 at-bats last spring as he participated in football spring practice while attending as many baseball games and practices as possible. He could have a much bigger role on the diamond this season.
“If he’s starting and playing and contributing, (football) coach (Will) Muschamp said, ‘He’s with you all the time,’ ” Holbrook told The State on Tuesday. “I’m going to make sure, and I’m sure all of our coaches will make sure, he doesn’t get too far behind football-wise, but coach Muschamp wants a hundred percent of his focus and attention to be on baseball this spring. Brandon’s grateful for that and anxious to try to make an impact on our team.”
McIlwain has settled into his role as a two-sport athlete at South Carolina and could have a breakout season, according to Holbrook.
A year ago, McIlwain just enrolled at USC and was working out with the baseball team prior to juggling baseball, spring football practice and academics.
Holbrook said McIlwain’s more prepared as he enters his sophomore season as an outfielder.
“He was trying so hard to do so well and to please everybody last year that it was probably a little too much for him. … It was his first semester on campus. He was trying to get his school work figured out. He had football obligations. He was trying to get all of his swings and reps in here. It was difficult for him and probably a whirlwind,” Holbrook said. “Now he’s comfortable here on campus. He knows what his responsibilities are and he’s just a lot more relaxed. I think when you’re relaxed and confident, you’ll see the true Brandon McIlwain.”
The Pennsylvania native arrived in Columbia with heavy expectations as a four-star quarterback and a top baseball prospect.
McIlwain hit .100 last season with one RBI in eight games, but possesses all of the tools necessary to be a strong college and potentially professional baseball player. Despite limited playing time, McIlwain’s considered the fourth-best prospect in the SEC for 2018 by Perfect Game.
South Carolina will scrimmage nine times, beginning this weekend, before its season opener on Feb. 17 against UNC Greensboro. Holbrook will watch McIlwain closely.
“I’d like to see him have some good at bats here in these nine scrimmages, put the ball in play consistently,” Holbrook said.
McIlwain still has some catching up to do after missing all of the fall workouts.
“He’s certainly got a chance to play a lot and a big chance to contribute for us. He has the talent and ability to be a special player. Is that going to happen Feb. 17 March 17? I don’t know,” Holbrook said. “If he’s ready and playing at a high level and can help our team win, then by God he’ll be in there.”
How Brandon McIlwain did in his freshman season in two sports:
Season: In eight games, hit .100 (1-for-10) with a RBI
Highlight: First hit, a RBI single, in 16-4 win over The Citadel
Passing: 62-for-118, 600 yards, 55.2 Comp. pct., 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Rushing: 63 attempts, 127 yards, 2.0 YPC, long run 18, 2 TDs