USC Gamecocks Football

His position suddenly hit by injuries, this Gamecock is in position to step up

Coach Muschamp previews challenges of facing Missouri

USC coach Muschamp previews challenges the Gamecock football team faces against Missouri Saturday.
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USC coach Muschamp previews challenges the Gamecock football team faces against Missouri Saturday.

He has spent much of this season as South Carolina football’s No. 3 tight end, rotating in with K.C. Crosby and Jacob August. But on Tuesday, USC coach Will Muschamp announced August is in concussion protocol, and Crosby is still getting a club cast taken down after breaking his finger.

So going into a game against Missouri that’s become more vital, he might step into that bigger role. There’s one thing that could help him in that spot.

“The one thing with Kiel, the first attribute I would talk about with him is his competitive edge,” Muschamp said.

The third-year player hasn’t been shy about his feelings. He was struggling with not having a bigger role in the spring, felt overjoyed in the opener and promised to do better after last week’s loss to Kentucky.

He gives USC a little versatility, especially as a flexed out slot receiver. But he’s also worked on another important skill for tight ends, something that’s allowed his game to flourish.

“A guy that was a receiver coming out of high school in Moultrie, Ga., Colquitt County,” Muschamp said. “Really good hands, very, very dependable as far as those things are concerned. But had really worked himself into a guy that can block in the C area.”

That C-gap is the area between the offensive tackle and tight end. It’s a spot where blockers have to set edges and often pry open holes for the run game.

Thus far this season, Pollard (6-foot-1, 236 pounds) has six catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. As a high school senior, he was a 1,150-yard receiver with 18 touchdowns through the air and another 13 on the ground.

With August out and Crosby potentially limited (he didn’t play against the Wildcats), much more falls to Pollard, and possibly to Kyle Markway, who fits more of an in-line blocking role, like August.

Muschamp said there’s a plan that could have Crosby more available this week.

“It was a pretty cumbersome club there as far as that’s concerned,” Muschamp said. “We’re trying to work to needle that down a little bit, put him in a better situation to catch the football.”

And if he’s still limited, Pollard offers something to USC’s offense on that front.

“He’s been a very valuable member of our team,” Muschamp said. “He’s really given us some things in the throwing game that’s been beneficial to us.”

The State’s Josh Kendall and Ben Breiner preview and predict the South Carolina football game against Missouri.