South Carolina football: Evaluating the quarterback room for 2021

South Carolina football will have a young QB room in ’21.

Last year, the quarterback room in Columbia was a perceived strength of the team, having a former starter in Ryan Hilinski, a graduate transfer in Collin Hill, and a talented rookie Luke Doty battling to lead the team.

Fast forward to the 2020 offseason, and two of those three options are in the transfer portal.

Ryan Hilinski was the first to make the announcement, deciding to search for a new landing spot late last month. Hill followed suit this past weekend.

Both of these decisions could be linked to former South Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who bolted for Auburn shortly after signing a contract to remain with the Gamecocks. Hill followed Bobo from Colorado State to Columbia in 2020, and was named the starting quarterback over the team’s first eight games.

The Gamecocks went just 2-6 in those eight appearances, and Hill was replaced by Luke Doty. He will not be back in 2021.

There’s still a little skepticism on Hilinski’s situation, though, as Bobo’s departure could have an opposite affect on the former starting signal caller.

There have been rumors of a reported riff between Hilinski and his old play caller, who seemed overly hesitant to remove Collin Hill from the lineup despite his constant struggles. Hilinski, who’d shown some flashes in the 2019 season, was beaten out by Hill in the offseason quarterback competition. His knowledge of the playbook, not athletic ability, was the reported reason for Hill’s winning the job.

The Gamecocks failed to show any real progression in the passing game with Hill under center, but Bobo consistently kept him on the field, rather than giving his No. 2 option a chance. When Hill was finally given the boot in game eight, Bobo turned to freshman Luke Doty, and Hilinski was again the odd man out.

Hilinski announced his plan to transfer after Shane Beamer named Bobo the Gamecocks offensive coordinator for the upcoming season, but things could change with his former position coach now on the move.

When asked at his press conference earlier this week, Beamer stated that he has been in touch with Hilinski, and that the two have had a “great conversation” in regards to how Hilinski could fit into the Gamecocks’ future.

Hilinski told Beamer of his intentions to transfer while the head coach was finishing up Big XII championship preparations with Oklahoma. Since his return to Columbia, Beamer has been in regular contact, though the details of these talks is not known.

Should Hilinski return to the Gamecocks’ roster, it will provide depth and experience in a quarterback room that, as of now, consists of just Doty and incoming freshman Colten Gauthier. The position would have more competition, which is just what Beamer wants, and Hilinski would certainly be given a clean slate and a fresh start from the new coaching staff.

“We’ll be creative and, certainly going forward, do everything we can to get those numbers where they need to be at each position. And quarterback’s no different than any other position. It’s got to be the right dynamic if we add to that room. And I talked to the guys in the first team meeting and talked about it (Sunday) night. We always want to be about competition and competing in everything that we do, and that’s no different when it comes to positions on the team.”

If Hilinski sticks to his transfer decision, the coaching staff may need to get creative, as Beamer alluded to in the above statement.

That creativity could mean moving quarterback turned wideout Dakereon Joyner back to the position room. Joyner was a four-star signal caller coming out of high school, but is finishing up his first full season at wide receiver, where he hauled in seven passes and scored a couple of touchdowns.

Outside of moving Joyner, the Gamecocks would likely have to grab a passer from the transfer portal, to provide depth if anything else. As of now, the job appears to be Doty’s for the taking, but depending on Hilinski’s final decision, we may not be able to hand him the keys quite yet.