The competition to be South Carolina’s second-string quarterback began Wednesday as the Gamecocks started spring practice. The competition to be South Carolina’s starter has been decided.
“There is no question that right now (Jake Bentley) is the best quarterback on our roster,” head coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday.
Bentley has thrown for 7,385 yards and started 31 of the last 32 games for the Gamecocks. He is within reach of the school’s career passing record (9,953 yards by Todd Ellis) and could become just the ninth player in SEC history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in his career. Although Muschamp stopped short of guaranteeing Bentley’s job for the fall, it feels like an answered question.
“He needs to play well and he understands that,” Muschamp said. “That’s true with every position.”
The more intriguing issue is behind Bentley, where redshirt freshmen Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich and early enrollee freshman Ryan Hilinski are competing for the backup job.
“All three guys have had good offseason programs and worked extremely hard to put themselves in this position, but you have to go out there when there are 11 on the other side and perform and perform well and I think all three are capable,” Muschamp said.
South Carolina’s coaches will try to get all three young players an equal number of snaps with the first-, second- and third-team offenses during the 15 spring practices.
“We have talked at length about this,” Muschamp said. “They all need to get opportunities with our first group and a fair number of snaps and a fair number of snaps with our other groups.”
Joyner, the state’s Mr. Football in 2017, and Hilinski, the No. 2 rated pro-style high school quarterback in the country last year, appear to be the frontrunners, for the job, which might not be awarded at the end of spring practice. The Gamecocks will hold their spring game April 6.
Joyner was 40-3 as the starting quarterback at Class 5A Fort Dorchester High School and threw for 9,745 yard and rushed for another 3,324 in his high school career. Hilinski was a three-year starter at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High School and threw for 8,102 career yards in one of the nation’s toughest high school divisions.
“We have 15 spring practices and a select number of practices going into fall camp before we really need to make that decision so that’s not pressing from a time standpoint,” Muschamp said. “They are all young players. They are going to continue to improve. We have been pleased with their progress.”
Joyner, Urich and Hilinski will be graded on decision-making, command of the offense, command of the team and communication throughout the spring, Muschamp said.
“Taking care of the football is No. 1 and being productive is No. 2,” Muschamp said. “Those are all things that are going to be evaluated every single snap.”