Josh Kendall

South Carolina’s new offensive plan has big role for tight ends

If new South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt Roper gets his way, no South Carolina fan ever again will wonder, “Where are the tight ends?” because they’ll be everywhere.

“I want as many as we can get, because I think that is the most multiple position that you can get,” Roper said. “If you get a guy that can really run routes and catch the ball, and is tough enough to block people, you can cause a lot of issues for a defense.”

At the moment, the Gamecocks have three tight ends – Hayden Hurst, Kevin Crosby and Kyle Markway, although Markway has been slowed during the first week of spring practice by a foot injury.

“I think we’re pretty talented at tight end with Hayden Hurst, (Crosby) can really run,” Roper said. “Markway is battling through his foot bothering him, but he’s a good football player.”

A various and generous use of the tight end has been one of the hallmarks of Roper’s offenses at Ole Miss, Duke and Florida, and he hopes to make it a focus here. Versatility and the ability to learn multiple roles will be a must for whoever wins the starting job.

“The defense doesn’t know where you’re going to line him up, so the more bodies we can get, the better off we are,” Roper said.

The spotlight will be an unfamiliar place for South Carolina’s tight ends, all of whom are sophomores. Hurst’s eight catches for 106 yards last year are the most by any returning tight end. Markway caught three passes for 57 yards, and Crosby didn’t catch any passes. All three were listed as co-starters heading into spring practice.

Walk-ons Jacob August and Matthew Weigel also are with the team this spring. August caught four passes for 38 yards last year, but is not listed on the spring depth chart. Evan Hinson, a three-star prospect out of Florida, signed a letter of intent in February and is expected to enroll this summer.

“I think that can be a position of strength for us,” USC first-year coach Will Muschamp said.