The Garnet and Black Spring Game, like most spring games, is a glorified scrimmage. It gives younger players a chance to gain reps in an environment that is the closest thing to game day until the first week of the season.
With that in mind, 25,832 Gamecock fans came to the Garnet and Black Spring Game hoping to get their first glimpse at freshman Ryan Hilinski and redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner as they battle for the backup quarterback position.
While Jake Bentley, last year's starter, did have a few drives as promised before the game, fans got what they came for.
Hilinksi and Joyner saw most of the snaps at the quarterback. Hilinski finished the day with 13 completions in 20 attempts while throwing with no interceptions. He threw for 134 total yards, with his longest play being a 25-yard pass.
Joyner saw less action on Saturday, finishing with four completions in 10 attempts, while throwing one interception in the second quarter. He threw for 72 yards and, like Hilinski, his most explosive throw of the day was a 25-yard pass.
Bentley, who has 32 career starts at South Carolina, was impressed with what he saw from the two freshman.
“They’ve both been very impressive all spring and really just compete hard and get after it,” Bentley said after the game.
Head football coach Will Muschamp was pleased with both of the young players as well.
“I’d like to watch the tape first, but my biggest thing, just sitting from my standpoint, was we didn’t have any procedure issues, we didn’t have any communication issues,” Muschamp said. “I thought both guys managed our offense well, and both of them showed some really good things.”
However, despite the productive day from both young players, Muschamp said that no decisions can be made over just one scrimmage, leaving fans on the edge for who might backup Bentley.
While it’s easy to look past the backup quarterback, there are instances in which the backup can be just as crucial as the starter, especially for a team like South Carolina who is in the process of building a SEC-winning program.
Look no further than last season.
Following last year’s loss to Kentucky, the Gamecocks' fifth-straight loss to the Wildcats, Bentley was hurt and deemed unable to play in the following week’s game against the Missouri Tigers at home.
With Bentley out, the Gamecocks looked to senior Michael Scarnecchia to lead the Gamecocks against SEC East rival Missouri.
In his only career start, Scarnecchia led the Gamecocks to a 37-35 win over the Tigers amid a torrential downpour at Williams-Brice Stadium, showing the impact that a backup quarterback can have on a team.
It looks to be just as important this year, especially given the teams that the Gamecocks are set to face.
With teams like Alabama, Georgia and Clemson on the slate next year, the road to the program’s second SEC East title certainly won’t be easy. Having a player behind Bentley who can come in at a moment’s notice can put the Gamecocks at an advantage, who arguably have one of the toughest schedules in college football in 2019.
But no matter who the backup quarterback will be, Muschamp sees that having more than just one high caliber player at a position is a good problem to have.
“At the end of the day, when you got to come to practice every day and you got to compete and strain against a good player all the time, it creates consistency in your performance,” Muschamp said. “That’s what good programs have and that’s where we’re headed."
The Garnet and Black Spring Game was the conclusion of spring practices. The Gamecocks are set to practice throughout the summer before kicking off the 2019 football season against North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.