USC Gamecocks Football

‘I just wanted to help’: This Gamecock’s position switch pays off in big spring game

Jay Urich’s future? Whatever the team needs, he says

South Carolina's Jay Urich -- a quarterback -- talks about starring in the spring game as a receiver.
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South Carolina's Jay Urich -- a quarterback -- talks about starring in the spring game as a receiver.

Before South Carolina football’s annual spring game Saturday, redshirt sophomore Jay Urich mostly stood out for what he wasn’t wearing — a yellow non-contact jersey like all his fellow quarterbacks.

In the race for the Gamecocks’ backup quarterback spot, Urich has been something of an afterthought this spring behind former four-star recruits Dakereon Joyner and Ryan Hilinski, both of whom are younger and considered better prospects than the Greer native.

So when he took the field at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday and started catching passes, not throwing them in warmups, it seemed he had simply been relegated far down the bench or forced into special-teams duty.

Once the scrimmage began, however, Urich showcased all the weapons that have led the coaching staff to praise him this spring as one of the Gamecocks’ best athletes.

With nine catches on 22 targets for 130 yards, Urich led USC’s receiving corps on the day, highlighted by a screen he snagged from Joyner and then took 62 yards for a touchdown.

“Jay is one of the best guys on the team as far as consistent guys,” senior QB Jake Bentley said. “It really just speaks a lot of his character to be able to do that and it showed out today. He looked good at receiver.”

Urich’s move to receiver took place in just the last few practices of the spring, said Bentley and redshirt junior receiver Bailey Hart, himself a converted QB. Coach Will Muschamp didn’t say whether the coaching staff or Urich suggested the move first, but indicated that he was completely willing to do so.

“Jay helped us last year at the end of the season when we got thin on special teams,” Muschamp said. “He’s a really good athlete. He’s probably 4.5, maybe sub-4.5 (40-yard dash), runs extremely well, understands our offense ... He’s a guy that’s going to help our team. He’s an unselfish football player.”

Urich echoed that sentiment.

“I just wanted to help the team the best way I can, and whatever coach wants, whatever this organization needs me to do, I’m gonna do it. So I just tried to do that the best I can,” he said.

That being said, the plan moving forward is to keep Urich primarily at quarterback while still deploying him on occasion at receiver or on special teams, Muschamp said.

Despite his strong performance Saturday, Urich said he still considers himself a QB. And towards the end of the spring game, he did get some time in under center, completing six of eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.

“I’m staying in (quarterbacks coach Dan) Werner’s room, so I’m a quarterback and if they need me over there, I’m just gonna continue to do what I’ve been doing this spring,” Urich said.

Still, Urich’s willingness to make the move in any capacity impressed his teammates a lot, senior center Donell Stanley said.

“We need more guys like Jay, guys that are unselfish and stuff. That’s what carries a good football team,” Stanley said.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.