Ryan Hilinski talks about his future with South Carolina football.
Ryan Hilinski came to the South Carolina football program as a highly touted quarterback, and one of the nation’s top prospects in the class of 2019. The country’s top ranked pocket passer, he travelled to Columbia all the way from Orange, California to play for the Gamecocks, becoming the second-highest rated quarterback commit in South Carolina football history.
Hilinski was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2019, forced into early action following a season-ending injury to starter Jake Bentley in the very first game. He would go on to start the next 11 contests, posting a 4-7 record under center.
In his first few appearances, he showed great promise, throwing his first career touchdown versus Charleston Southern, and following it up with a 324-yard performance against Alabama.
As is typical with freshmen, though, he saw high peaks and low valleys over the course of the season. He helped lead the Gamecocks to a victory over Georgia in Athens, but also fell to Missouri and Appalachian State while battling through injuries.
When all was said and done, Hilinski had thrown for 2,357 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions. It was the second-best output from a freshman signal caller in the SEC that year, just behind Auburn’s Bo Nix.
Most believed that he’d be handed the keys to the offense again in 2020, but things changed when Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill decided to follow his head coach, and newly hired Gamecock offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo to Columbia. Hill transferred as a graduate student, and ended up winning the starting role over the offseason.
Hill’s winning the job sparked talks of a possible transfer for Hilinski, whose family moved across the country following his commitment to South Carolina. On Wednesday, Hilinski addressed those questions for the first time since learning he’d lost the starting role.
When asked if he’d thought of transferring upon losing the quarterback race, Hilinski replied, “That never crossed my mind.”
Rather than having a pity party, the Gamecock signal caller focused on becoming a better football player.
“I’m focused on this next game, focused on the next rep, focused on tomorrow’s Thursday practice and getting better as a quarterback. I know with Coach Bobo, Coach Muschamp and all those guys in that room, they’re looking out for me and making sure I become a better quarterback and better person. That really hasn’t crossed my mind.”
Hilinski has yet to make an impact this season, appearing in just one game, a blowout win in Nashville against Vanderbilt. He’s yet to attempt a pass, but may see a bump in playing time following the Gamecocks’ disastrous outing versus LSU.
Both Hilinski and reserve Luke Doty received more first team reps in the off week, and though Collin Hill is set to make his sixth consecutive start, he may have a shorter leash than usual.
Whether he sees the field or not this Saturday, the sophomore seems to have a level head on his shoulders, and a positive mindset on the process as a whole.
“Being in this backup role, I’ve really had to perfect the playbook. I’ve been able to watch Collin, a guy who has been in this system a long time, and I’m learning from him. It’s really helped me a lot and I want to be out there but in this role, it’s been preparing me for whenever my number is called… I have an obligation to this team to be ready whenever my number is called.”
It’s great to see Hilinski taking the approach of student and embracing competition, rather than running from it. For now, his future in Columbia seems pretty secure. Obviously, things can change between now and the end of the season, and with quarterback transfers becoming the norm in college football, anything is possible, but it looks like Hilinski is in this for the long haul.