QB coach Dan Werner talks Hilinski’s, plus where they stand in naming back up quarterback with video
April 04, 2019
Ryan Hilinski what has he shown so far
The first thing that stood out was Ryan Hilinski’s hunger.
The decorated quarterback recruit had finished signing his scholarship papers, meaning the staff could more freely communicate with him. So he wanted to get things started.
“As soon as he signed and we were allowed to start sending him playbook material, he was begging for it,” Gamecocks quarterback coach Dan Werner said. “You can tell he’s worked hard on it. I’m pleased with how he’s progressed.”
Hilinski has gone through 14 practices as a South Carolina passer. He’s still plenty green when it comes to the full experience of being a college passer, and he’ll make his Williams-Brice debut this Saturday in the spring game.
But he did what was asked after arriving, competing with Dakereon Joyner and Jay Urich for backup snaps behind Jake Bentley.
He had all the accolades — Elite 11 passer, Top-50 national recruit, a strong showing at the All-American Bowl — but he did something that isn’t always a guarantee.
“You never know now, once he gets here, is he going to pick up the offense and all that stuff?” Werner said, “And he has.
Werner is as seasoned and respected a quarterback coach as one will find. He worked with Heisman winner Gino Torretta, decorated Miami passers Steve Walsh, Ken Dorsey and Craig Erickson. He helped jumpstart Ole Miss’ offensive explosion in the mid-2010s, helping mold Bo Wallace into a 10,000-yard passer and Chad Kelly into player who averaged 309 passing yards a game.
The coach declined to compare Hilinski to anyone specific in his past but did say he felt pride with the way Hilinski came through his senior season. He played in as talented a high school league as there is in the country, and his team picked up some powerhouse non-conference games. Adding to that, his Orange Lutheran squad took a bad run of injuries, so much so that when Werner visited for a game, it seemed that half the postgame handshake line was on crutches or out of uniform.
But Hilinksi hung tough, throwing for 2,771 yards and nearly beating Mission Viejo without any running threat and with a steadily disintegrating offensive line.
On that level, he showed Werner a few things, and thus far, they’ve translated to the college field.
“He’s got a really quick release, made good decisions and he’s really accurate,” Werner said.
QB coach Dan Werner talks Hilinski’s
There’s no easy way to approach the difficult subject that has become a defining part of Ryan Hilinski’s life.
His brother Tyler committed suicide in January of 2018. It’s something that defined the end of his high school career, played a small role in where he chose to go to college and even factored into his family moving from one coast to the other.
In the recruitment process, it came up. It almost had to.
“That’s a tough thing to talk about obviously,” Gamecocks quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said. “And you never want to talk too much about it or not enough.”
But Werner too knows the pain of losing someone close, and that helped connect the coach and player.
Werner’s wife Kim died in 2009 because of an enlarged heart. That left him a single father of two. He stepped away from college coaching, worked at a high school and only returned to the college ranks a few years later.
“I’ve had some personal tragedies in my life,” Werner said. “So early on in our relationship, we talked about it, both of our situations a lot. And I think we created sort of a bond there. It actually made it easier.”
The coach watched his quarterback go through the year, wore “Hilinski’s Hope” wristbands for the family’s foundation and this spring welcomed the young passer onto campus in Columbia.
They’ve been working together the past month, getting Hilinski into the mix, competing for the backup job and learning the ropes of college ball.
“He’s done a really good job,” Werner said. “He’s studied really hard.
“You could tell he’s worked hard on it.”
Where they stand in naming back up
South Carolina is “not even close” to naming a No. 2 quarterback, quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said Thursday.
Freshmen Dakereon Joyner, Ryan Hilinski and Jay Urich are competing for role as top reserve for senior quarterback Jake Bentley.
Joyner, a redshirt freshman, was the state’s Mr. Football in 2017 as leading Fort Dorchester High School to a 40-3 record as the starting quarterback in his career. He is in his second spring practice with the team after playing one game last year.
“He’s done a great job,” Werner said. “When he came in, he was swimming just because his offense was so different in high school. We were asking him to do a lot of different things that he had never done. It hurt him obviously but he wants to do so well. He works as hard as anybody. He’s in their watching film, studies the playbook, and he knows it, and has had a really good spring so far.”
Hilinski signed with the Gamecocks in December as the No. 2 rated pro-style quarterback prospect in the country. He enrolled in January in order to compete in spring practice this year.
“He’s done a really good job. He has studied really hard,” Werner said. “As soon as he signed and we were allowed to start sending him playbook material, he was begging for it and you can tell he’s worked hard on it. I am very pleased with how he has progressed.”
Urich also is a redshirt freshman.