COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is letting his first true quarterback battle in four years go a little bit longer.
Muschamp and the Gamecocks have had the luxury of an established starter in recent years since Jake Bentley took over as a freshman in the middle of the 2016 season and started 33 of the next 34 games into last year.
South Carolina is searching for the same stability among sophomore Ryan Hilinski, graduate transfer Collin Hill and highly regarded prospect Luke Doty.
Muschamp has liked what he’s seen so far and is not ready to choose who’ll take the opening snap when South Carolina opens Sept. 26 against No. 25 Tennessee.
“We’ve got a great battle going on,” Muschamp said. “It’s making each other better, it’s making our football team better. We’re going to let it go again this week and then make a decision hopefully next week.”
Hilinski, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound sophomore, figured to have the lead on starting after he came in to play the final 11 games following a season-ending foot injury to Bentley.
And while Hilinski had some stellar moments — 324 yards passing and two touchdowns in a loss to Alabama — he struggled through injuries as South Carolina lost five of its final six games to go 4-8.
Hilinski finished sixth in Southeastern Conference passing yards per game overall and first among freshman. He finished with 2,357 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Hilinski had surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee after the season and has been healthy and productive in fall camp, so much so that he was named the offensive player of the Gamecocks’ first camp scrimmage two weeks ago.
But Hill, the graduate transfer from Colorado State, earned that honor after last Saturday’s workout, according to Muschamp.
Hill came in January, following his former head coach at Colorado State, Mike Bobo, who is the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Gamecocks.