COLUMBIA, S.C. — Brandon McIlwain has traded in one helmet for the other at South Carolina, but his experience on the football field has him excited for his experience on the baseball diamond this spring.
“It was great to be on the field and it made me want to be on the field more in baseball,” McIlwain said. “It made me see how the Gamecock fans are and how the atmosphere can be it this level in the SEC. I’m excited to see what baseball is going to bring now.”
McIlwain, a freshman quarterback and sophomore outfielder, came to South Carolina with the intention of playing both sports throughout his career.
“As long as I can do both, I’m going to do both,” McIlwain said. “Whenever one plays itself out, I feel like the decision will make itself.”
McIlwain started three games at quarterback as a freshman on the football field last season, throwing for 600 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushing for 127 yards and a pair of scores. On the baseball field last season, he played in 8 games, going 1 for 10 at the plate with an RBI.
McIlwain is competing for a starting outfield spot, coach Chad Holbrook said Friday, as he devotes himself to baseball this spring. McIlwain shot down the notion that playing both could cost him the opportunity to be a starter in one.
“I think these coaches have a done great job of figuring out a schedule for me and figuring out that I can do both, like what is going on now in this semester,” McIlwain said. “They are giving me a great opportunity to play baseball and do the things I need to do to compete and play baseball.
“I feel like I’ve had a great opportunity to compete in both. All the opportunities the coaches have promised me have been there. I’m happy with both. I’m happy with what I’m doing in both sports.”
McIlwain, who was a highly regarded baseball player out of high school, stressed that “baseball is definitely the priority” during the spring semester. On his own time, he will continue to study film, keep up with the playbook and work on the football side of his career at South Carolina as his teammates kick off spring football in late February.
“It’s definitely nice to be able to focus on one,” McIlwain said. “There is a lot that goes into being a college athlete and being able to really focus and figure out a schedule and figure out a good schedule for baseball and to help myself have the time that I need to excel in baseball is going to be really good this semester.”