PIEDMONT, S.C. — Jay Urich has been on the grind since the end of his freshman year.
The coaches at Blue Ridge High School needed a new quarterback after their previous guy moved to North Carolina; their solution was the tall, athletic wide receiver with no experience playing the position.
EPTraining quarterbacks coach Ramon Robinson was summoned to help with the transition.
“I saw the growth. I saw the potential,” Robinson said. “It was just a matter of refining it and really pulling it out of him and buying into what was going on.”
That was never an issue for the newest South Carolina commitment.
“From Friday nights, under the lights doing what I do, and in the film room — that was a big adjustment,” Urich said. “As a receiver, you don’t really need to watch film, but as quarterback, you need to know what everybody is doing. You need to watch the defense is doing, what their tendencies are.
“It was a different transition, but it was awesome.”
Urich passed for 1,359 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore while rushing for 337 yards and six scores during his only season as the Blue Ridge quarterback.
As a junior at Wren High School, where he transferred after three semesters, Urich passed for 2,758 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,031 yards and nine scores.
“I know talent when I see it,” Robinson said. “And all I saw when I saw him was another Kelly Bryant.”
Like Urich, Bryant transferred to Wren in the middle of his sophomore year after two seasons of taking snaps in a Wing-T offense at Abbeville. As quarterbacks, both were projects when Robinson and Wren coach Jeff Tate got their hands of them.
Now a sophomore at Clemson, Bryant is vying to be Deshaun Watson’s backup in 2016. Urich will enter his own quarterback battle when he plans to enroll at South Carolina in 2017.
“What I see now with (Urich) is I’ve seen a quarterback grow mentally and physically … he’s grown so much,” Robinson said. “And I’ve seen it, things like that catch you by surprise and I’ve seen that. What South Carolina is getting, they’re getting a steal. They’re getting a steal.
“However you want to put it, you don’t have to have offers from 30 Division I programs. He has one that believes in him and he believes in what they’re doing down there. He’s going to make the best of the opportunity.”
Most of Urich’s recruiting interest came from smaller schools like Southern Miss, Coastal Carolina and Furman. South Carolina was his only Power 5 offer, until Duke pulled the trigger last week.
There’s been plenty of interest from other major conference programs, including Kentucky, NC State and Penn State, but each of Urich’s recruiters at the three schools changed jobs before the recent evaluation period.
“From what I’ve seen, the calls I’ve gotten, the calls Coach Tate has gotten, it’s going to continue to come,” Robinson said. “I mean, he’s solid in his commitment, but at the same time, the recruiting process doesn’t stop once you commit.”
At one point in the not-too-distant past, Courtney Urich would have preferred her son didn’t commit to play football at South Carolina. Urich’s mom graduated from Daniel High School, which sits right around the corner from Clemson, where she picked up a nursing degree.
Before Friday, Courtney was already losing the battle. Two of her kids are already students at South Carolina. Things got weird when Gamecock football was brought into the equation.
“The first time I went to Carolina and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. They’re people, just like (Clemson coach) Dabo (Swinney) is — people just like everybody else is.’ They give love. They’re honest. And I feel great about it,” Courtney said. “This was a year-and-a-half ago, before the new staff. My decision then (was), I hate the Gamecocks still, but I like them a little bit better.
“So we go again and it feels better. Then we have the new coach and it’s even better.”
Courtney, along with her husband and four kids, donned a South Carolina hat when Jay announced his commitment to the Gamecocks last Friday.
“What I say is, ‘Money and a scholarship is not (garnet) and it’s not orange.’ I’m grateful for my son going where he wants to go and doing what he wants to do,” she said. “I’m not going to let my feelings get in the way of the happiness of my son. It’s my job as a mom to make sure that he’s safe and happy and comfortable, and it’s coming to the end of that.”
Jay’s dad, Scott, doesn’t have to put his allegiance on pause.
“I’ve been a Gamecock for a number of years, but the choice was completely Jay’s. I’m glad that he’s allowing the spirit of the Lord to lead him to pick Carolina,” Scott said. “It’s in the state. Coach (Kurt) Roper and Coach (Will) Muschamp have recruited him for a while. They’ve put in the time and effort to recruit him and that’s what matters to Jay, showing him the attention and love towards him when he’s visiting.”
The decision “felt right.”
“I’d say the coaches, Coach Roper and Coach Muschamp,” Jay said, “Feeling comfortable with them and just being in an offense that I feel comfortable with, and not really going where everyone else thought I was going to go or what other people thought I should do.”