By Jeff Owens | Photos by Travis Bell
The biggest objective during South Carolina’s spring football game Saturday was evaluating the continued development of young quarterbacks Ryan Hilinski and Dakereon Joyner, who are battling for the backup job behind starter Jake Bentley.
“To me, it was all about the evaluation of those guys. That’s critical for us moving forward,” head coach Will Muschamp said.
But another backup QB stole the show during the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game.
Jay Urich, a redshirt sophomore from Greenville, is the third member of the QB battle and he put his multi-positional skills on display Saturday. Urich not only completed 6 of 8 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, but he lined up early and often at wide receiver and caught nine passes for 130 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown pass from Joyner, as the Garnet squad won the annual scrimmage 28-16.
Urich will continue to rep at quarterback but Muschamp said Saturday that he would also play wide receiver and on special teams.
“Jay is a really good athlete. He is one of the faster guys on our football team, he competes, he plays hard, so he is going to play,” he said. “He is still in the quarterback room but he is going to play some receiver and special teams. He’s a guy who is a really good athlete and is going to really help our team.”
Bentley, the senior starter, played only two series Saturday, completing 9 of 14 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown — a 25-yard toss to former Gamecock star and celebrity participant Deebo Samuel, who snuck in from the sidelines in the third quarter.
Hilinski and Joyner rotated running the offense for both teams, giving them both plenty of reps. Hilinski was 24-of-36 passing for 206 yards. Joyner was 10-of-23 for 185 yards and a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 60 yards on eight carries.
Though Muschamp said the battle for the No. 2 job will continue into the fall, he liked what he saw from both Hilinski and Joyner.
“I would like to watch the tape first, but my biggest thing was we didn’t have any procedure issues, we didn’t have any communication issues,” he said. “We threw a good bit at them as far as corner pressure at times and they were right in their reads. … When you are playing that many guys it is hard sometimes to get in a rhythm, but I thought both guys managed our offense well. I thought both of them showed some really good things.”
Urich, who helped run the scout teams with Joyner last year with fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia serving as the backup QB, said he only started lining up at receiver during spring practice a few days ago. Though he will continue working at quarterback, he is willing to play wherever needed.
“I just want to help the team the best way I can,” he said. “Whatever coach wants, whatever this organization needs me to do, I’m going to do it. I just try to do that the best I can.”
Muschamp said Urich’s speed and athleticism makes him a valuable asset at multiple positions.
“Jay helped us last year at the end of the year when we got thin on special teams,” he said. “He is a really good athlete, he’s probably 4.5 or a sub-4.5. He runs extremely well and understands our offense. … He is a guy who is going to help our team. He is an unselfish football player and we are excited about his future here at South Carolina.”
The Black team had 427 yards of total offense, while the Garnet team produced 387. But the defense was also solid, producing three sacks, an interception by defensive back Jamel Cook and 10 pass breakups. Sophomore linebacker Ernest Jones led the Black squad with six total tackles, while defensive back Jamyest Williams had six for the Garnet team.
Muschamp was pleased with what he saw during the spring game and throughout spring practice.
“It was a good day today. I thought we culminated a really good spring from the standpoint of accomplishing what we needed,” he said. “We have a deeper team than we had and more competitive depth, especially on both lines of scrimmage. When you have to come to practice every day and you have got to compete and strain against a good player all the time, you create consistency in your performance and that’s what good programs have and that’s where we are headed. I thought we accomplished some good things.”