Heading into spring practice, the South Carolina football team is faced with the task of replacing one of the most productive tight ends in school history.
Hayden Hurst, who’s considered by some as the best tight end prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft, caught 100 passes for 1,281 yards and 3 touchdowns during his career with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina has plenty of potential options to fill in the void, but the six players combined to make 9 catches in 2017.
How could the group take shape this spring?
On paper, South Carolina’s tight end group can split up into two different groups. The guys in this category fit the mold of a more traditional, attached-to-the-line type of tight end.
Players were slotted here based off one trait: Size.
- Jacob August (6-foot-6, 258 pounds)
- Evan Hinson (6-4, 240)
- Kyle Markway (6-foot-5, 250)
- Will Register (6-foot-4, 245)
August is among the more experienced tight ends on the roster. According to TheBigSpur, he played 333 snaps as a redshirt junior and caught 6 passes for 68 yards.
Hinson worked mostly on special teams as a redshirt freshman, but did log 10 snaps on offense. While his schedule is yet to be confirmed, because he’s been a starter on the basketball team through most of SEC play, it’s possible that he’s a late arrival to spring practice.
The other two, Markway and Register, haven’t played a snap of offensive ball for the Gamecocks. Markway, a special teams contributor, saw his 2017 season cut short by a rib injury and Register took a redshirt after arriving from Chapin (S.C.) High School.
K.C. Crosby (6-1, 242) and Kiel Pollard (6-0, 240) have different builds than the other four tight ends, so we’ll classify them as H-backs, but both have been used in hybrid roles for the Gamecocks.
In 2017, Crosby played 80 offensive snaps before his season was cut short by a leg injury. Pollard was on the field for 27. They combined to catch 3 passes for 17 yards. A season earlier, when South Carolina’s wide receiver depth wasn’t as a strong, Crosby caught 23 passes for 217 yards and 4 scores.
Who’s used where and in what capacity is sort of up in the air right now. With a new offensive coordinator (Bryan McClendon) and another season with a complete arsenal of wide receivers, there are plenty of unknowns as it relates to the future of the tight end position.
Based off last year’s snap totals, August figures to be the top option at this point, but Hinson and Register were highly-touted prospects when they signed with Muschamp. Can talent trump experience? Perhaps, but that’s assuming both are actually better than August, a former walk-on who’s spent most of his career as a blocker.
Those three, along with Markway, Crosby and Pollard, round out a position group that could end up being a mix-and-match unit in 2018. With so many bodies, it’s no wonder the Gamecocks didn’t sign a tight end with the last recruiting class.