COLUMBIA – Hayden Hurst did it all for South Carolina last season. The pitcher-turned-tight end was a safety blanket, do-it-all player for the Gamecocks last season as he complied school record after school record in three seasons.
Now that Hurst is gone, after being selected in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, the Gamecocks are seeking his replacement. But the answer to their search may already be on the roster with in-game experience.
“You look at it, Jacob August and K.C. Crosby are two guys that are going to have to step up and be big for us,” Jake Bentley said. “They’ve had a really good off-season and they’re guys that are really going to have to pull their weight.”
Being the two most seasoned veterans at the position, August and Crosby, a former star at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, are the odds-on favorites to start in South Carolina’s offense next season. They’ve combined for 17 career starts, 40 receptions, 386 yards and five touchdowns.
August, who’s mostly known for his blocking, played in every game last season opposite Hurst, compiling 68 yards on six catches in three starts.
Crosby struggled to get on the field the start of last season, starting just one game and catching two passes for 11 yards before a broken fibula sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
The season before that, though, Crosby showed that he could be a down-the-field threat as a quicker tight end, catching for 217 yards and four touchdowns. Coming into this season, the senior is fully healthy and has found his niche in Bryan McClendon’s faster, more aggressive offense.
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“K.C. probably had one of the better springs of any of our offensive players,” Will Muschamp said. “I think what we’re doing really fits him as far as the things we can do. K.C. can block at the point of attack and is a very good receiver down the field.”
In his junior year Hurst had almost 18 percent of all of the Gamecocks’ receptions last year, had 20 percent of all receiving yards and was second on the team in receiving touchdowns.
Only Bryan Edwards had more yards and touchdowns than him last year.
It’ll be up to Crosby and August to try and fill that massive void that Hurst is leaving but Bentley said it could be a situation where everyone on the offense has to step up and make up the lost yardage.
In the Gamecocks’ new offense, Bentley said the Gamecocks will have plenty of different looks with more players getting to see the field so the pressure may not all be on the tight end group.
“I think it’s going to be a deal of whoever gets open I’ll throw it to them,” Bentley said. “I think being more multiple and getting a lot of guys on the field and being aggressive, everyone might have more catches.”
Other tight ends on South Carolina’s roster are:
- Kyle Markway, junior: 14 games, one start, three receptions, 57 yards
- Kiel Pollard, junior: 25 games, two receptions, 22 yards
- Evan Hinson, sophomore: 12 games
- Caleb Jenerette, walk-on freshman: no stats
- Will Register, redshirt freshman: no stats
- Patrick Reedy, walk-on freshman: no stats