COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is searching for a spark on offense - again.
Muschamp has thrown open the quarterback job after the Gamecocks were outscored 100-27 and outgained 1,071 to 553 in losses to LSU (52-24) and No. 5 Texas A&M (48-3) the last two games.
Muschamp said Tuesday that starter Collin Hill and backup Ryan Hilinski, last year’s starter, will split reps at practice this week. It could be a game-time decision who actually starts.
“We may not make a decision until we see who’s slinging it in pregame,” Muschamp said.
It looked like Muschamp, a national championship defensive coordinator, had turned the corner in finding a positive offensive track after hiring Mike Bobo as the Gamecocks third coordinator in five seasons.
South Carolina and Hill made waves a month ago with a 30-22 win over then No. 15 Auburn, the Gamecocks first victory over the Tigers since 1933.
But it’s been difficult to find a lot of positives in the two losses since. The coronavirus-reduced crowd of about 16,000 at Williams-Brice Stadium began chanting “Fire Muschamp” as Texas A&M kept scoring.
Muschamp said his players and staff are disappointed with recent results, but locked into turning things around starting Saturday at Ole Miss (2-4).
“I think we’re in a good spot mentally, as good as it can be,” Muschamp said. “These guys are angry, upset and they want to play better and we have to coach better.”
Hill is a grad transfer from Colorado State who played for Bobo with the Rams. The South Carolina native won the starting job over Hilinski, a sophomore, in camp and steadily had the offense among the top half of the SEC.
It was obvious against the Aggies, however, that South Carolina’s offense needed a lift.
Hill said he came to work this week planning to show he’s still the best choice, despite the results.
“Unfortunately, it’s a bottom-line business and we’re 2-4,” Hill said.
Hill has started every game, throwing for 1,142 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Hilinski started 11 games last season as a freshman, taking over when Jake Bentley, a four-year starter, was injured in South Carolina’s opener. Hilinski was the SEC’s top freshman passer with 2,357 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Hilinski said whether he is the starter or not this week, he plans staying the course - preparing and helping whichever quarterback is on the field do the best they possibly can to help South Carolina win.
“I think our guys are really locked in and the best thing we’re doing is not giving up,” Hilinski said.
Muschamp also has a package for dual-threat, third-string quarterback Luke Doty, a highly regarded freshman considered among the top athletes on the team.
The coach said all the quarterbacks are doing well in early preparations for Mississippi.
South Carolina tight end Nick Muse acknowledged the difficulty for both quarterbacks at times this season: Hilinski at not winning the starting job and Hill, who was not anticipating a mid-season quarterback derby.
“They’re both ready to play so whoever gets the call gets the call,” Muse said, adding everyone has a job to do.
It’s up to players, Muse said, to execute and cut out the mistakes that have cost them the past few weeks.
“No one wants to come to a game to cheer on a team that’s going to lose,” Muse said. “That’s what we’re doing and we’ve got to fix that.”
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