College Sports

What surprised South Carolina’s Bryan McClendon about Ryan Hilinski? His bravery

First look: South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski

Ryaln Hilinski and South Carolina begin spring practice for the 2019 football season at Jerri & Steve Spurrier Football Indoor Practice Facility Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019, in Columbia, SC.
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Ryaln Hilinski and South Carolina begin spring practice for the 2019 football season at Jerri & Steve Spurrier Football Indoor Practice Facility Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019, in Columbia, SC.

With a new quarterback in four-star recruit Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon had a sense of what he was getting. But in one area, the coach admitted you don’t know about this until you see it in practice.

How brave he is.

“When you’re standing in the pocket and kind of having to deal with all the stuff and you’re dealing with people around there, you just don’t know,” McClendon said.

Before this spring, the coaches had seen Hilinski work in camp and on film, but not in that kind of full-team situation in the flesh. So how’d he do?

“He hasn’t flinched,” McClendon said. “You go in there. They send stuff at him and he’s making the right checks and doing the right things.”

The top-70 recruit nationally enrolled early, and was already trying to drink in the playbook before he arrived on campus. He played for a high school that regularly faced some of the best teams in the country, but all that got put behind him once he arrived.

He’s currently battling for South Carolina’s No. 2 job behind longtime starter Jake Bentley, along with Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich. He’s not as mobile as either of those two, but with an accurate arm, he’s showed the staff a little something.

“He’s looking pretty good,” McClendon said. “He’s grasping everything. He’s doing a good job of understanding what we’re trying to do every time he’s in there and does have good command of it.”

As a high school senior, Hilinski threw for 2,746 yards, 29 scores and 10 interceptions as the team around him was ravaged by injuries. He’d thrown for more than 3,700 yards the season prior.

In practice Wednesday, Joyner, Hilinski and Urich all rolled through during a short period when the second-team offense was on the field. That points to one of the challenges the staff has with three options for a backup spot.

McClendon and his staff have to weigh and study the circumstances of every rep those QBs get. They’re playing with mixed lines, less quality receivers, blends of the second and third teams against second- and third-team defenses.

So when asked if some kind of hierarchy is developing now, McClendon only pointed to the data that needs to be drilled into.

“Right now, we have a lot to look at before we even consider a pecking order,” McClendon said.

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley gives his early thoughts on four-star quarterback commit Ryan Hilinski, who signed with USC on Wednesday.

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