Dakereon Joyner's versatility, unselfishness pays off as he adds a needed wrinkle to South Carolina offense
All you need to know about Dakereon Joyner is the guy was pressed into action last year at Georgia following the injury to Ryan Hilinski and led the Gamecocks to an upset of the Bulldogs. That was after he began the year as the No. 3 quarterback, then moved to wide receiver, and then was back at QB.
After his freshman year, he lost a battle for the backup job and was moved to receiver, a challenge he took in stride, a positive trait that the coaching staff noticed. But starting QB Jake Bentley was lost for the year, which meant Joyner had to be a backup quarterback and learn on the job at receiver. He was also slowed by a hamstring injury last season.
So it was no surprise to see wide smiles on the sideline Saturday when Joyner scored on a 47-yard reverse pitch run around right end. Many of his teammates know what he’s been through between switching positions and dealing with injuries, while also having as much talent as anybody on the team.
Vanderbilt became the first team to bottle up South Carolina leading receiver Shi Smith on Saturday as that was the first game that he had less than double-digit catches. There have been flashes, but the Gamecocks are still looking for a secondary receiver to emerge. And outside of RB Kevin Harris and Smith, consistent playmakers are hard to find on the offense. That’s where Joyner comes in.
Tight end Nick Muse said after the game that the long run not only gave the team a boost but lifted Joyner as well. Playing a skill position when one isn’t getting the ball isn’t easy, and the senior said the two shared a chat about it.
“DK, he’s been up and down throughout the past couple years,” Muse said. “He went from quarterback to receiver. He’s like (freshman QB/receiver) Luke Doty. He’s good enough to play anywhere. So we’re gonna try to find ways to get him the ball. I think his confidence was kind of low until today. I’ve talked to him a couple of times personally, just in the locker room stuff, had a 30-minute conversations about how we just need to be positive, make the plays when they come. He’s too athletic not to be on field.”
Muse noted Joyner didn’t receive any targets the first 2 games, however, “him being out there causes a threat, because you never know what he’s capable of doing. Like today, one (play) 45, 50 yards, touchdown. Because that’s just who he is, he’s good enough to make that play. We’re going to start utilizing him more obviously, but I just told him to keep his positive energy up and help the other wide receivers who are coming along too, making the opportunities.”
Coach Will Muschamp has acknowledged Joyner’s unselfishness in previous years dealing with position changes, and he also recognizes his leadership.
“What I have seen with Dakereon is a guy who has off the charts leadership capability. Positively affects everyone around him,” Muschamp said at the team’s media day in August 2018. “… He has the uncanny leadership ability to affect everyone around him. He has that kind of charisma, and that is certainly what you want at the quarterback position.”
Muschamp before this season started was candid about Joyner’s role in the program in recent years, and the pandemic-disrupted offseason
“It was very unfair to him last year,” Muschamp said leading up to the Tennessee game. “We moved him to receiver and he completely bought in and wants to do it and a week and a half later he’s back to playing quarterback. So he didn’t have a year, didn’t have a spring practice to go through to learn all the different nuances of a new position. So there’s still some learning going on, which is to be expected.”
The key for Joyner is patience, Muschamp said, as he wants everything to happen right now.
Muschamp continued, “The great thing about Dakereon is he’s very competitive and intelligent. … Sometimes there’s a process you have to work through, and what I’ve been proud of is he’s been able to see that process and continue to work through that process to be a really good player. But we have a high expectation for him and he has a high expectation of himself.”