Josh Kendall

How close is South Carolina to having a backup quarterback?

South Carolina is “not even close” to naming a No. 2 quarterback, according to quarterbacks coach Dan Werner. Freshmen Dakereon Joyner, Ryan Hilinski and Jay Urich are competing for role as top reserve for senior quarterback Jake Bentley.

“You hope they all progress, but that makes it a tough decision,” Werner said after the team’s 14th practice of the spring. “If one really does well, it’s good for that guy but the other guys aren’t doing well. I’m glad they all did good so it makes it tough on us.”

Joyner, a redshirt freshman, was the state’s Mr. Football in 2017 as leading Fort Dorchester High School to a 40-3 record as the starting quarterback in his career. He is in his second spring practice with the team after playing one game last year.

“He’s done a great job,” Werner said. “When he came in, he was swimming just because his offense was so different in high school. We were asking him to do a lot of different things that he had never done. It hurt him obviously but he wants to do so well. He works as hard as anybody. He’s in their watching film, studies the playbook, and he knows it, and has had a really good spring so far.”

Joyner’s throwing mechanics have improved since he enrolled at South Carolina known mostly for his dynamic athleticism.

“He worked really hard in the offseason on his own and he has come back and is throwing the ball really well now,” Werner said. “Obviously, he can run so you don’t want to take that away from him so we give him his progressions and say, ‘When everybody is covered, then you take off running.’”

Hilinski signed with the Gamecocks in December as the No. 2 rated pro-style quarterback prospect in the country. He enrolled in January in order to compete in spring practice this year.

“He’s done a really good job. He has studied really hard,” Werner said. “As soon as he signed and we were allowed to start sending him playbook material, he was begging for it and you can tell he’s worked hard on it. I am very pleased with how he has progressed.”

Hilinski has been as good as advertised, Werner said.

“He’s got a really quick release, makes good decisions and he’s really accurate. I am really pleased,” Werner said. “You never know once he gets here is he going to pick up the offense and all that stuff, but he has.”

Urich, a redshirt freshman, is among the fastest players on the team and already is working with some special teams units. Both he and Joyner could be candidates for position changes due to their athleticism if they don’t earn the backup job.

“Everything is always open on a football team, but right now I want those guys to play quarterback,” Werner said.

Bentley will play “two or three or four” series in Saturday’s spring game (noon, Williams-Brice Stadium, SEC Network).

“Then we’ll let the other guys have at it,” Werner said, “and see what they can do.”

South Carolina spring game details

When: Noon Saturday, April 6

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia (gates open at 10:30)

Admission: Free

TV: SEC Network (Matt Schick, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang)

Radio: 107.5 The Game in the Columbia area

Extra: Former Gamecock lettermen will take part in a flag football game inside Williams Brice at 11 am.