COLUMBIA, S.C. – K.C. Crosby waited almost three years between touchdown receptions.
But the wait this season was a short one for the South Carolina sophomore tight end. It took less than two games for Crosby to get back in the end zone for the first time since his senior year at Bamberg-Erhardt (S.C.).
It never seemed like he would be without one too long in 2016, thanks to how heavily the tight end position has factored into the Gamecocks offense under coordinator Kurt Roper.
“As soon as we got here, coach Roper when we had our meetings, he sat down and let us know that we were going to use a lot of 12 personnel,” Crosby said. “A lot of H-back sets and that we would play a big role in the offense, so we needed to get in the playbook ASAP and make sure we learned everything across the board.”
Throughout the Gamecocks game against Mississippi State, they utilized the “12” personnel formation, which features two tight ends. Crosby and the rest of the USC tight ends knew it was coming. They also were more than eager to jump at the chance to be focal points of the offense.
“We have a lot of athletes at tight end,” sophomore Jacob August said. “They are trying to utilize that. We have five guys right now that can start on any given team. They know that and they are trying to get as many tight ends on the field as possible.”
The Gamecocks still are in search of more depth at wide receiver as they head into a Saturday clash with East Carolina (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network). Just three have seen significant playing time, while two others started to get opportunities against the Bulldogs. But while the wide receiver spot is unsettled and lacking depth, the tight ends are providing an alternative in the passing game.
Crosby had three receptions for 14 yards in Starkville, while Hayden Hurst had eight catches for 68 yards and August made one grab for 10 yards.
“We take it upon ourselves to know just as much as the quarterbacks so we can help across the board,” Crosby said. “Whether that’s at wing, slot, outside receiver or in the backfield, we just take that responsibility on us.”
Coach Will Muschamp said the play of Crosby and Hurst was one of the bright spots and building blocks moving forward for the USC offense. He also said that Kiel Pollard needs to get more involved and should play “a good bit” Saturday. As the freshman gets involved, it only looks more likely that two tight end sets will continue to be a staple of the South Carolina scheme.
“It creates an issue for the defense to prepare for as far as whether we are going to create some blocking surface issues or we’re not,” Muschamp said. “Hayden is a guy that can split out and do some things in the slot. So can K.C. I thought we did some decent things with those guys, at times. We need to narrow down more at times our identity and what we are. We are going to do that.”
As for Crosby, he’s seeking to increase the number of snaps he can play in a row. He knows the opportunities will continue to be there as he looks to build on his first touchdown as a Gamecock.
“It is a confidence booster,” he said. “You leave that in that game and take it into the next game with confidence. Hopefully, you can keep help the team get better.”