Dakereon Joyner just loves playing football.
Especially when he gets to make plays like he did Saturday.
The first time he stepped under center Saturday, the redshirt freshman broke loose for a 41-yard run to the Charleston Southern 6-yard line. Two plays later, he scampered into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
Joyner, South Carolina’s backup quarterback, has become a dynamic playmaker. He caught a pass for 12 yards early in the game and then electrified the Williams-Brice Stadium crowd with his highlight-reel run.
Relieving new starter Ryan Hilinski, Joyner faked a run to the right, avoided a rusher in the backfield and darted around left end. As he headed down the left sideline, he juked two Charleston Southern defenders on the second of several big plays on the day.
“After I pulled the ball, I saw that the guy was sealed off outside toward the sideline and I saw green grass and I had to go,” Joyner said. “Just playing ball. I told y’all I enjoy playing ball, and that’s what it was.”
Joyner, a dual-threat quarterback from North Charleston, started the season as the third-string quarterback while working his way into the lineup at wide receiver. He caught two passes in the season-opener against North Carolina and then became the backup quarterback when starter Jake Bentley went down with a foot injury.
With Bentley out and Hilinski making his first career start, the Gamecocks planned to use Joyner in a variety of roles Saturday. He had one catch for 12 yards, had 53 yards rushing on four carries, completed his only pass and led two second-half scoring drives in the 72-10 win.
Head coach Will Muschamp’s said Joyner’s attitude and preparation have made him a vital part of the offense.
“His approach, not just this week but every week, has been phenomenal,” Muschamp said. “He approaches it like he’s a starter at quarterback and a starter in our rotation at the receiver position. He’s extremely bright so he can handle everything and he handles everything really well. He can really help our football team in a lot of areas, not just at receiver and not just at quarterback.”
Though Joyner lost the backup quarterback role to Hilinski, he has repeatedly declared himself a team player and embraced his new role as a dual-threat weapon. He was excited Saturday to get playing time at receiver and quarterback.
“I’m just here to be the best guy I can be,” he said. “I think I’m doing a good job of doing that, but my teammates are helping me a lot keeping my confidence going at every position.”
Muschamp said Joyner’s role will continue to evolve. His ability to play multiple positions and make plays in the open field can put pressure on opposing defenses as they prepare for the Gamecock offense.
“He’s a very mature guy and he handles what we do very well. His role is going to continue to expand and help us be more productive offensively,” he said. “He’s hard for a defense to count. What is he? Is he a quarterback? Is he a receiver?
“He’s got a big lower body so he’s able to run through contact and when he carries the ball he’s a harder guy to tackle because of his lower body. He’s just a hard guy to count for a defensive coach. From a preparation standpoint, you create some issues.”
Joyner is just happy to get opportunities to make plays and show what he can do.
“I knew I was going to have opportunities,” he said. “When you get your chance, go make plays. That’s what I do. … It’s just playing football.”