Ryan Hilinski’s reaction to learning he’s going to be South Carolina’s starting quarterback on Saturday against Charleston Southern was simple.
“Let’s go,” the Gamecock freshman told his head coach Will Muschamp.
Because of a Lisfranc foot injury incumbent starter Jake Bentley suffered in the team’s season opener against North Carolina, Muschamp on Tuesday confirmed reports the highly-touted freshman Hilinski has been thrust into the starting role.
“Ryan will be the starter, and I’ve got all the confidence in the world he’s going to do an outstanding job,” Muschamp said. “He’s prepared himself for this opportunity.”
Added the coach a few minutes later, “I think he’s done a really nice job learning the offense and the time he’s spent, whether it’s in the film room or the weight room or the practice field. I’m excited about Ryan. He’s going a lot of arm talent and a lot of ability.
“I think he’ll play extremely well. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him and the job he’ll do.”
Muschamp said SC will adjust its offense to fit what Hilinski feels comfortable doing.
“Ryan’s very intelligent. He’s adapted himself well,” the coach said. “And we’ve got to make sure we play well around him. That’s the most important thing.”
South Carolina players expressed bittersweet emotions when talking about the quarterback situation. All expressed disappointment and sorrow when talking about Bentley’s injury but talked with excitement when talking about Hilinski’s potential.
“Everybody knows what he brings. He’s a good guy, athletic. He knows how to throw it,” said senior Donell Stanley, who will likely start at center for the first time this season after starting 12 games there last season. “He knows the offense. We just have to protect him and do a good job with that and let him to do what he does.
“… We brought him here for a reason, to play. Him being a freshman, I don’t see him any different than Jake. He’s going to go out there and do his thing and do what we practiced.”
“He’s got a great arm and he’s gotten better and better each day he’s been here,” running back Rico Dowdle said. “ … He’s kind of laid back. He doesn’t really say too much. He’s cool.”
Said cornerback Israel Mukuamu, “He’s a great quarterback. He knows how to throw the ball. The coaches trust in him, so that’s why he’s going to start. I’m just excited for him to play. … He’s just a competitor. He wants to win. Coach is going to put him in the best position to play. … He’s a pretty good guy. I like him a lot. He’s a young player, but he came here to compete.
“Now is his time to compete.”