It wasn’t a perfect day for South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski, but there aren’t a lot of those.
Still, in his first SEC game, against vaunted Alabama, he showed some important things to Will Muschamp.
The Gamecocks, despite their two losses, still look ahead to their two goals of contending for the conference‘s East division and the shot at Clemson for state pride. That is going to fall in large part on the shoulders of the true freshman whose 300-plus yards earned him a conference honor off the bat.
“There’s a lot to like,” Muschamp said. “There were some mistakes made, sure. We didn’t didn’t create a motion on a critical third down situation. And there was a couple things here and there that big picture-wise, he’s a freshman.”
The coach hailed the fortitude and toughness shown against the defense stocked with future NFL talent.
Hilinski ended up with 324 yards on 57 attempts against Alabama. He had scoring passes of 31 and 11 yards, but had a lower yards per attempt (5.7) and an interception when he tried to attack double coverage downfield.
His coach said he hasn’t done much different since Jake Bentley got hurt, since he stepped into the limelight and found himself getting more national attention than he had already.
“He is the exact same he was last spring as far as his personality around our football team,” Muschamp said. “I’m sure he’s attracted some followers since he started, I would guess. But in our building in the football environment of things, I haven’t seen a change at all.”
The challenge for him now changes in a way. Against Alabama, he could play completely loose because the only hope of victory was him doing spectacular things. This week could be the first of several where South Carolina’s bowl hopes truly hang in the balance.
This week, not missing chances will become almost as important as using talent and skill to create chances.
It’s a lot to put on a freshman, but it’s part of the deal with how things have shaken out. And as he looks at whatever step is next, he boasts something his coaches want to see.
“There’s some things that we’re obviously coaching up on,” Muschamp said. “But there’s a lot of things we don’t have to coach him up on.
“So that, to me, says an awful lot.”