Josh Kendall

Gamecocks had to replace Hayden Hurst in 2018. How’d they do?

South Carolina didn’t expect to find the next Hayden Hurst this season. Instead, the Gamecocks put together a four-man tight end rotation to take the place of last year’s first round NFL Draft pick.

It still didn’t quite catch Hurst.

Jacob August, K.C. Crosby, Kiel Pollard and Kyle Markway combined for 36 catches for 313 yards and four touchdowns for South Carolina this season. Hurst had 44 catches for 559 yards and two touchdowns a year ago before being picked No. 25 overall by the Baltimore Ravens.

“As a group I thought we did really well,” August said. “Hayden is a tough act to follow but us four did what we were asked to do and made plays. We were pretty consistent this year as a tight end corps. We weren’t asked to do much but when our number was called, we stepped up.”

August, a Columbia native and Cardinal Newman graduate, will wrap up an unlikely Gamecocks career on Saturday when South Carolina (7-5) takes on Virginia (7-5) in the Belk Bowl at noon in Bank of America Stadium. He spent his first fall out of high school playing football at Fork Union Military Academy, where he was listed as a tight end, punter and place-kicker. After that season, he chose to walk on at South Carolina rather than walking on at Penn State or accepting a scholarship from Temple or Southern Miss.

“Going to Fork Union was a good journey,” August said. “I learned a lot there. I really didn’t know what to expect from college football.”

August earned a scholarship in 2017. He is a two-time member of the SEC academic honor roll and has 22 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns in his career. He had his career high in single-game receiving yards in his final regular season game with 37 yards against Akron.

“Nothing is perfect. I am disappointed in some things, but overall I’m really proud of where I’ve come from,” August said. “Coming out of Cardinal Newman, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just took it one day at a time.”

He was the Gamecocks’ third-leading tight end this season with seven catches for 78 yards. Junior Kiel Pollard led South Carolina’s tight ends with 15 catches for 181 yards. K.C. Crosby had 11 catches for 101 yards, and Kyle Markway had three catches for 53 yards, including a crucial 27-yard grab against Missouri.

“Hayden the last two or three years taught us so much,” Markway said. “It’s hard to replace a first round draft pick, but I thought us four guys were able to rotate and have a balanced enough attack that the coaches were happy with it.”

Belk Bowl info

Who: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)

Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

When: Noon Saturday