COLUMBIA -- Ryan Hilinski can’t talk to the media after games because of South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp’s rules about freshmen availability, which means he can’t recap what was a big day for the Gamecocks’ true freshman.
But that doesn’t mean his teammates can’t discuss what they saw from him.
Every one of his teammates who spoke with the media postgame raved about what Hilinski did in his first collegiate game, saying it’s something they’ve been seeing since he stepped on campus.
“I was extremely happy for him,” Dakereon Joyner said. “Once I heard he was starting this week, I was excited. I know what he can do. The rest of the world at the time didn’t know what he could do. Now you know. I knew what the guy was capable of. I was excited for him.”
Hilinski couldn’t have scripted a better start, leading his team out to “2001” before completing his first 12 passes of the game and punching in a four-yard rushing touchdown.
He finished the day going 24-for-30 with 282 yards and two touchdowns through the air, both to Bryan Edwards, with one a 60-yard rope down the middle of the field.
He had one misstep — a third-quarter interception — but other than that played a well-rounded game as the Gamecocks put up school records in total yards (775) and rushing yards (493) with a Muschamp-era record 72 points.
Take those stats obviously with a grain of salt — Charleston Southern is a team with a first-year head coach and was just hit with NCAA sanctions recently — but what his teammates saw was a young player completely unfazed by the moment.
“Obviously, you have to always take in the quality of an opponent. You understand where you are. I thought he handled himself extremely well for his first start,” Muschamp said. “I had defensive players and players who played other positions offensively, much less the quarterback, have nerves walking out there in that environment. Obviously he handled the moment extremely well and will continue to progress.”
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Muschamp preached all week about designing a game plan to fit Hilinski’s strengths and what he felt comfortable doing in Bryan McClendon’s second-year offense.
After the game, Muschamp didn’t give a percentage as to how much of the playbook was used, but said Hilinski catches on to what the Gamecocks are trying to do schematically and the opportunity to grow and expand offensively compared to what they did Saturday is certainly there.
“I’m not sitting here saying we’re spoon-feeding him. The guy can handle what we’re doing. The guy’s extremely bright; he’s been here through spring and the entire installation this summer. He went through training camp. I think it’s easier for a younger player especially at that position when you start dwindling down to game plan. That’s not as vast as the entire playbook. We’re able to narrow down the scope of things in what we’re asking him to do in a ball game.
"I thought we played well with tempo today; that helps him. He likes playing fast. That’s one of the things he pointed out to us,” Muschamp said. “I think we’ll continue to expand what we do moving forward.”
The Gamecocks ran 69 plays, averaging 11.2 yards per pop with Hilinski accounting for 286 yards of the 775.
He found nine different receivers for completions Saturday and the team’s leading receiver Edwards (five catches, 112 yards) said a game like that can only build a young quarterback’s confidence.
His teammates, though, have already seen that confidence building since Hilinski arrived on campus in January.
“Whenever I’m on the field with Ryan, he always comes at me. In camp, he attacked me and Izzy (Mukuamu) every time he’s out there,” Jaycee Horn said. “He has great arm talent. He can throw it from any angle and it’ll get there. I’m just happy for him.”