Three weeks ago, Dakereon Joyner learned that he did not win the backup quarterback job and would be asked to learn other positions to get him onto the field for South Carolina.
On Saturday, he played wide receiver for the first time in his career, catching two passes in the 24-20 season-opening loss to North Carolina.
Two days later, Joyner’s role changed again as the Gamecocks learned that they had lost starting quarterback Jake Bentley for an extended period of time. Now Joyner is the backup to freshman starter Ryan Hilinski, while also preparing for an expanded role at wide receiver.
Joyner, a redshirt freshman, has handled it all with the maturity and grace of a seasoned veteran.
“I just want to be the best teammate possible,” Joyner said Tuesday. “I’m a very positive guy. I feel like everything happens for a reason. I’m just here to be the best teammate possible and I’m here to play the best role. Whatever my coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. If that’s me being versatile, I just want to help the team.”
Joyner has continued to take reps at quarterback while learning to play wide receiver. He said Tuesday he was continuing that role and preparing to step in at quarterback if needed.
“Next man up. Injuries happen,” he said. “I’m sorry that happened to Jake. He’s definitely one of our leaders, definitely a guy everybody looked up to, but it’s next man up.”
"There's nothing that's really changed with him,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We still have some things where we feel like Dakereon can help us offensively, so that role … will certainly continue. I think he did a good job on Saturday."
Muschamp said Joyner is capable of playing multiple positions, even while serving as the backup quarterback and possibly getting playing time there as well.
"Mentally, he's fine. He'll handle it all. He's very bright, very intelligent,” he said. “He really has embraced the role. We're excited about it."
In the age of the infamous transfer portal, many players would not have handled Joyner’s situation as well as he has. Dozens of backup quarterbacks have transferred after losing the starting job or learning that they may not play as much as expected.
Not Joyner. He says he’s committed to his team and South Carolina.
“Everybody thinks differently. I don’t have a message for those guys, but I know what I’m here to do,” he said. “I’m here to be a team guy and be the best person possible, not just for me but for my team.”
Asked if he planned to remain at South Carolina, Joyner said, “I’m good here. My focus is on this season.”
His primary focus this week is to help Hilinski prepare for his first career start and be ready to play both wide receiver and quarterback, if needed. He and Hilinski have become good friends and have supported each other throughout their training camp battle.
“Always. That’s never changed,” he said. “We still hold each other accountable in everything we do. That never changes. Right now we just have to continue pushing each other even more, be even more detailed in the film room and be ready to go.”
Joyner and Hilinski have both been preparing for this role throughout the offseason and Joyner is confident they can both step in and perform well in place of Bentley.
“We are very confident. We have always been confident being the backup guy,” he said. “I think we have always done a good job of preparing the right way to be that guy every week. I commend Jake for being the leader that he is and still motivating us and making sure we are on top of things.”
Meanwhile, he is embracing his new role in the offense. He caught his first pass on South Carolina’s first possession Saturday and enjoyed the experience.
“It was fun. It was really fun to get out there and see it from a different perspective and compete with the guys on the edge,” he said. “I enjoyed it.”
While some players need months of practice to learn a new position, Joyner says the switch has not been challenging at all.
“I have always been a guy who, I can do whatever. It’s about helping the team,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a challenge at all for me. I am a team guy, and I can do it. … I just like playing ball.”
Joyner, a North Charleston native who has several friends on the Charleston Southern team, believes his team is ready to put last week’s loss behind it and take care of business in the home opener.
“We’re good. We have a long season, it’s just one game,” he said. “I commend our team. I feel like we have done a good job of kinda putting that behind us and I think we are ready to move forward and focus on CSU.”