What Coach Muschamp said about Hilinski, 72-10 win over Charleston Southern
Making any sweeping judgments off the result, though, might not be wise. Charleston Southern is an FCS team coming off a blowout loss to a fellow FCS team last week. The Buccaneers were hit with NCAA sanctions in 2018. So thoroughly beating them was always the expectation.
Still, that doesn’t mean Saturday’s game didn’t teach us anything about USC. Here are five lessons learned about the Gamecocks.
The future is now for Ryan Hilinski
There’s still a chance senior Jake Bentley could return from a Lisfranc injury and take back his starting quarterback job, but Saturday sure felt like a changing of the guard. Hilinski, the much-hyped true freshman, came in and performed well, posting a performance that compares favorably to any other quarterback debut in program history.
With 24 completions and 282 yards divided among nine receivers, Hilinski was efficient, poised and capable. He may not be able to repeat his statistical output next weekend against No. 2 Alabama, but if he can show the same tools and intangibles, he’ll have a head start on an impressive career with the Gamecocks.
Somehow, someway, Dakereon Joyner can help
Speaking of quarterbacks, redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner is now the backup QB after all. After he initially lost that position battle with Hilinski, he was shifted to wide receiver for the team’s season opener against UNC. Against Charleston Southern, he got time at both spots.
We’ve still yet to see Joyner do much of anything as a passer — he completed his only attempt for zero yards Saturday — but he caught a pass for 12 yards and rushed four times for 53 yards and a touchdown. His 41-yard burst in the fourth quarter was particularly impressive and highlighted the fact that Joyner is simply too good an athlete to be kept on the sidelines.
Kevin Harris has a bright future
The rushing attack was especially potent Saturday, producing a school-record 493 yards. Five different Gamecocks topped 50 yards and five wound up in the end zone. And the one putting up the biggest numbers? Freshman Kevin Harris.
With three touchdowns and 147 yards on just six carries, Harris stood out even after the outcome was settled and the game was essentially on ice. He exploded for touchdown runs of 45 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter, shedding tacklers and flashing some speed as well.
Coach Will Muschamp praised Harris’ performance after the game, and while the senior trio of Rico Dowdle, Tavien Feaster and Mon Denson will likely limit his touches this year, he gave fans a glimpse of what he might provide a year or two down the road.
J.T. Ibe can make an impact when he’s healthy
Now in his sixth year of college, senior safety Ibe has been plagued by injuries his entire career and missed last week’s game with a pectoral injury that’s affected him since his time at Rice.
But Muschamp said he’d be ready for this week’s game, and sure enough, he was in the starting lineup, posting a solid performance to give the Gamecocks some much-needed depth and experience in the secondary. He finished the day with four tackles, including half a tackle for loss, and anchored a defensive back group that picked off Charleston Southern three times. If he can stay on the field and in good health, that will limit how much Muschamp is forced to rely on unproven freshmen.
Bryan Edwards won’t stay down for long
Against North Carolina, senior receiver Bryan Edwards had his lowest receiving total ever as a Gamecock, catching just one pass for only seven yards. On the very first play Saturday, he surpassed that with a nine-yard grab. That was the start of a five-catch, 112-yard performance, his second-highest receiving total in college.
And while, as noted above, Hilinski spread the wealth around and found lots of different receivers, Edwards led the team with seven targets, including a couple of deep balls and one 60-yard highlight-reel bomb. With a young QB that’ll need to lean on his playmakers, Edwards is a prime candidate to receive plenty of chances over the next few weeks.
Who: Alabama at South Carolina
When: 3:30 pm Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia