COLUMBIA -- Entering last weekend’s opener, Nick Muse found himself in a pretty unique position.
The man who probably spent every Saturday the last two years on a football field was suddenly on a couch in Belmont, North Carolina, with his friend and his dog watching South Carolina while he waited for an NCAA ruling on eligibility.
“It was a struggle watching it,” Muse said. “At the end of the day, I know we’re capable of way more than that. I knew this, we were going to turn it around and next week we’ll get prepared for ‘Bama and see where it goes from there.”
He gave his tickets to family members for the UNC game — you don’t need a ticket if you’re playing — but didn’t hear back from the NCAA that week. It wasn’t until roughly 18 hours before the Gamecocks’ noon kick against Charleston Southern, and it was good news.
He found out around 5:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the team’s scheduled night-before meeting, and the news was met with excitement from his teammates.
And it didn’t take long for Muse to make an impact for better or worse.
He’d caught a quick pass from Ryan Hilinski and when he turned to run, fumbled the ball, which is probably not something you want as your first reception on a new team.
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“The first catch, it’s a humbling experience,” he said, somewhat smirking. “I’m getting my toes in the water. I’m watching the UNC game, sitting on my couch waiting for months to see if I can play or not. Then I play and that’s the first play. It’s humbling. I enjoyed it though. I came to the sideline with a grin on my face knowing I was going to get back in there and do my job next time.”
Muse rebounded, finishing with two catches for 22 yards in his first game as a Gamecock, and now the question becomes if Muse can keep it up and become a staple in the offense this year.
The Gamecocks are incredibly thin at tight end after a few preseason injuries and transfers, and getting Muse eligible is a big boost to a room without a lot of experience.
He’ll factor in quite a bit to this offense along with starter Kyle Markway.
“That’s a huge position of need for us. I appreciate the NCAA in understanding in his matter. We agree with the decision 100%,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s a really good football player and he’s going to help us a lot this year. He’s a mismatch in coverage and the guy competes his butt off every time he gets on the field.”
Muse, who transferred in the offseason from William & Mary, is coming off a career year for the Griffins, setting career highs in receptions (30) and yards (453) with a touchdown catch.
He walks into a tight end room that lost Kiel Pollard to a cyst on his spine and Evan Hinson to a transfer.
Muse is one of the elder statesmen of the room now, with Markway and third-year tight end Will Register, but said he doesn’t feel a lot of urgency to fill the void left by those two guys. He’s just hoping to make an impact where he can in SEC play.
“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all,” Muse said. “I know William & Mary’s not 90,000 people watching, but there’s some athletes everywhere. I’m enjoying it for the most part. Muschamp has a lot of faith in me, and that’s a good thing. (Bobby) Bentley respects my game and knows what I can do to help the team out.”