Editor's note: The interviews for this story were conducted before South Carolina's game against Texas A&M on Saturday.
After several changes at the Gamecock quarterback position the past few seasons, fans are yet again adopting a new starter this year. With only five games played so far this season, fan loyalty is up for grabs, according to students at the University of South Carolina.
In a press conference on Sunday, head coach Will Muschamp said there is no clear starting quarterback for the Gamecock's game against Ole Miss on Saturday — whoever performs the best in practice will play.
Sophomore Ryan Hilinski was the starting quarterback during his freshman campaign in 2019 and spread awareness about mental health and suicide prevention with Hilinski’s Hope Foundation. This quickly earned fan support, as he and his family became an inspiration even beyond Williams-Brice Stadium.
Of the 32 students interviewed, a few said they're partial to Hilinski over graduate transfer Collin Hill for his family's work alongside his athletic qualifications.
“They’re probably about the same, if I'm going to be honest,” Harrison Rosenfeld, a second-year international business student, said. “I like Hilinski a little more just 'cause I like him more as a person. I like the foundation and everything.”
However, the starter position was reassigned for the 2020 season to Collin Hill, a graduate transfer from Colorado State. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo also came from Colorado State, where he previously coached Hill. As starter, Hill has led the Gamecocks to two victories this season, including a home victory over top-15-ranked Auburn.
A majority of students said they feel more loyal to Hill after seeing the five games under Hill’s belt as a Gamecock. Ross Sewell, a fourth-year marketing student, said Hill is the most suitable fit for the starting position.
“[Hill's] a transfer student from Colorado State, and that’s where the offensive coordinator came from, and he knows the offense better than Hilinski does, I believe,” Sewell said.
When students were asked to rate South Carolina's quarterback play on a scale of one to five, five being the best, the median score was a three. With this slightly above average score, it is apparent that some students are not entirely satisfied.
Although Hill has seen the majority of playing time, Hilinski still managed to take some snaps during the Vanderbilt game, and some students said he should've continued to start this year, including first-year business student Jason Zaprazny.
“Hill's a grad transfer, and he hasn’t been playing like that," first-year business student Jason Zaprazny said. "[Hilinski] was a freshman. ... So, there’s no reason not to try to get a sophomore more developed.”
Third-string freshman quarterback Luke Doty has also seen some playing time this season, making his debut during the Vanderbilt game and earning playing time against LSU. Doty is a highly regarded quarterback from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who has been praised for his athleticism, but just one student said Doty should see a chance at starting.
Hill's performance has led many to think he was the right choice as he's the most favored among students interviewed.
Lachlan Hertel, a third-year marine science student, said he believes it is too soon for fans to give up on Hill.
“He came here as a graduate; he needs to get a chance. We need to stick with him. It’s not like we’re getting anything different in Hilinski,” Hertel said.