Josh Kendall

With one week left in spring, here’s how Gamecocks’ backup QB race is shaping up

South Carolina has three more spring football practices remaining, and the Gamecocks still are looking for a backup quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner, sophomore Jay Urich and early enrollee freshman Ryan Hilinski all remain candidates for the job, USC head coach Will Muschamp said Saturday after the Gamecocks held their second scrimmage of the spring. South Carolina will hold its spring game April 6 in Williams-Brice Stadium, but Muschamp doesn’t expect that game to end the competition for the job.

“We would like to make a decision in (fall) training camp because it’s hard to rep three when you’re getting ready for a game,” Muschamp said. “The number of reps those guys have gotten (this spring) is right at the same and all those guys have repped with our first group to give them the same opportunities.”

Senior Jake Bentley, who has 32 of the team’s last 33 games, will be the Gamecocks’ starter this fall. Joyner, a former Mr. Football in the state, and Hilinski, the top No. 2 ranked pro-style high school quarterback in the country last year, are considered the frontrunners to be his top backup.

Joyner, Hilinski and Urich have been “live” all spring and will continue to be in the spring game. That means, unlike Bentley, they can be tackled by the defense in practice. South Carolina defenders have been instructed to make firm contact with the young quarterbacks in the pocket but not tackle them all the way to the ground. Outside the pocket, the three young quarterbacks can be tackled to the ground.

Bentley is completely off limits for the defense in order to preserve his health, but USC coaches want to see how their young players respond to live action.

“Under duress, making decisions, ball security,” Muschamp said. “We have been thudding them in the pocket, and outside the pocket we have made them live.”

Urich has also worked with some of the team’s special teams units this spring.

“He’s an outstanding athlete. He’s a wonderful young man, and he’s going to help our football team,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very unselfish young man. He wants to help.”