Forget punt returner, Will Muschamp just wants a reliable punt receiver.
Fielding punts now is counted among the mounting issues facing South Carolina during Muschamp’s first season as head coach.
“Ball possession is my No. 1 thing right now and we need to have possession of the ball, so we’re going to send somebody back there and the first thing we’re going to be able to do is catch it,” Muschamp said.
Who could blame the man?
It’s not like the Gamecocks are lighting up the punt-return game this season. Deebo Samuel and Rashad Fenton each have 8 yards over 2 returns. Jamarcus King, who muffed a fourth-quarter punt against Texas A&M, has 1 return for 2 yards.
The team’s 3.6 yards per-return average is 106th in the country. As South Carolina heads into Game 6, Muschamp is looking at all of his options to ensure that number at least has a chance to improve.
“It’s an open competition,” Muschamp said. “Chris Lammons is a guy that’s been back, but he hasn’t done it in a game. Hayden Hurst has got great ball skills.”
That’s right. The Gamecocks tight end and best pass catcher might find himself deep at punt returner when the Dawgs show up on Saturday to Williams-Brice.
Hurst leads South Carolina in most receiving categories: receptions (24), yards (302), receptions per game (4.8) and yards per game (60.4).
Kiel Pollard, Bryan Edwards, Fenton and Samuel also will compete for punt-return duties.