Jay Urich is still very early in all this.
Sure, he’s been a wide receiver before, but he’d been throwing to them for a few years before the choice was made to move the third-year South Carolina football player from quarterback to receiver. But that doesn’t mean he is too green to play a role in the Gamecocks’ offense this year.
“He definitely still has learning to do at the position, but we need him to be here,” offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon said. “I mean, we’re probably gonna need that guy to be in the rotation. ... he’s worked extremely hard in order to do that. So if he keeps it up, man, he’s a guy that we feel like this that’s going to be able to give us some good depth, good quality depth that position.”
That’s a bold statement of sorts considering where USC is at the receiver spot and how recently Urich dedicated himself to the position full-time. Days before the spring game, coaches said he was just chipping in as a special-teamer. Then he was putting up big yardage totals against backups in the Garnet and Black Game.
The Gamecocks have a top group all but set, with Shi Smith, OrTre Smith and Bryan Edwards as returners. Former four-star Josh Vann has also posted a good camp. After that is more a question, with longtime veterans in Chavis Dawkins and Randrecous Davis, freshmen in Keveon Mullins and Xavier Legette and mid-range veterans such as Chad Terrell.
Urich has some notable raw talent for his position. He’s 6-foot-5 and among the fastest players on the team. He still has to work on the finer points — catching, routes, all of that.
In high school, he was a sophomore starter behind center before transferring into a high-powered offense at Wren High School. He threw for more than 4,700 yards, and perhaps more importantly, ran for 1,000 or more yards twice.
At the start of this training camp, he said he was approaching the task with a sense of doing whatever the team needed. Teammates explained that’s just the kind of kid he is, pliant and up for anything.
But most of the time, there still might be a big adjustment period.
McClendon said his aim is to have six or seven reliable receivers the team can go into games with. Those first four spots are almost assuredly spoken for. But if McClendon’s words are any indication, Urich might be in the mix for one of the others.
The start of the season is bearing down, and at the smallest levels, Urich is make the mark the coach wants to see.
“Just like anything else, the more you do it, the more you get better at it, with anything, and that’s that’s no different with him,” McClendon said. “He’s done a good job of working extremely hard. And that’s the thing with him. He’s a hard working conscientious kid. And so he wants to do extremely well.
“He’s going to play ball for us and play winning ball for us.”