There’s a line of demarcation when a recruit such as Ryan Hilinski finally enrolls early with a college football team.
Before that line, it matters how he shows in all-star games, practices and camp, how he plays on a high school field. These all give a sense of what a player can be.
Then he enrolls, and all of a sudden, those accolades no longer earn him credibility. He makes his case for the next season based on workouts, impressing teammates in player-run practices or coaches in meetings, showing leadership and most importantly, hitting the field for spring ball.
That’s a time to make a mark, and earn a role next season. Hilinski comes into a room with a senior quarterback who has started for years. So his first goal in his first semester on campus is more modest.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The State
“One of the big things I want to get out of it is just getting closer with all the teammates,” Hilinski said. “Just building relationships because all these newcomers coming in, I’m a Cali kid, and so maybe some other kids know each other, they’ve been a part of this team for a while and I’ve got to come in, and being the quarterback, you’ve got to have a good relationship with kids on the team.”
That said, he’s also there for the competition. He said he also has a goal of doing whatever he could to show he belongs on the field at some point.
When asked about redshirting in the past, he said he’ll probably do it if Jake Bentley didn’t go pro. Asked again just before enrolling, the plan has shifted slightly, and he’s putting it in the hands of his coaches.
“I talked to my parents about it,” Hilinski said. “I think that will probably be the best decision for me.”
His chances of redshirting are likely good. He is competing with dual-threat passers Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich for the backup spot behind Bentley, unless he just shows out. Both of those players showed some need to develop as passers at the end of last season, but if Hilisnki’s skills match his recruiting hype, he’ll be right there in the mix for the backup spot.
But the NCAA’s new redshirt rules make it easier to redshirt given a backup can play in four games. Michael Scarnecchia only played in four last season behind Bentley, and there wasn’t any real incentive to keep it that low.
Hilinski said before coming to campus he had already studied up on protections, the run game and the offensive formations.
And although the all-star experience won’t have any tangible impact on whatever role Hilinski can carve out. He said working around the best players in the county and with good coaches helped develop the player who arrived on campus.
He hopes a spring with USC’s staff has a similar effect.
“It’s definitely a big advantage for me,” Hilinski said. “I’m just starting to hit my ceiling and I think with coach Werner and coach (Bryan) McClendon and coach (Will) Muschamp and coach (Jeff) Dillman and Kristin (Coggin), our nutritionist, I think all of those guys will play a role in how I can break through that ceiling.”