In the early going of Thursday’s season opener against Vanderbilt, the South Carolina football team had a problem at its inside receiver position. Jamari Smith couldn’t hold onto the ball.
How did the Gamecocks adapt? By playing two tight ends the vast majority of the second half.
Hayden Hurst was almost always on the field, switching between playing tight or going into the slot. Walk-on Jacob August mostly played attached to the formation. K.C. Crosby did almost all his work split out.
Hurst said the team had already expected to play two tight ends a good bit, and he saw something in what Crosby contributed.
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“With him, when he gets in there and he gets rolling, his confidence goes,” Hurst said. “And as his confidence goes, he produces. I think that’s the biggest thing for him. If he can just get in there and get his confidence level up, he’s an unbelievable player.”
Crosby spent most of his career as a man without a country. He doesn’t boast prototypical tight end height, but is beefy enough he would fit better at linebacker than receiver. A season ago, he was used as a spot fullback in some run-heavy packages, and there was hope the new staff’s shift in the tight end responsibilities would benefit him.
His opener didn’t involve offensive fireworks, but he did make a few plays.
The first pass his way went incomplete, as the defender covering him drove hard on the ball and came close to committing pass interference (freshman QB Brandon McIlwain was in and defensive backs were attacking short routes).
In the second half, after his snaps increased, he hauled in pass on a drag route, not an easy one considering how tight the defender was, to keep the team’s only touchdown drive alive. Later on the drive, he threw the last block that sprung A.J. Turner’s 20-yard run to set up the score.
It remains to be seen if he’ll keep getting that work in the slot. South Carolina likely wants a receiver there more often than not, and there are some pure tight end things Crosby can be put to use doing. .
“I thought he played well,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s going to play a lot more Saturday (against Mississippi State) than he did (Thursday) night. We’ll certainly use him in some different spots as far as the slot is concerned.”