Why Collin Hill won the starting job and what it means for the South Carolina offense
If there’s one reason Colorado State grad transfer Collin Hill won the starting quarterback competition at South Carolina, look at the grit and determination it took to bounce back from 3 ACL surgeries.
Hill already beat the odds and then some to even compete for a starting role in the SEC, as he transferred to stay with his former coach, Mike Bobo, the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator.
Yes, Bobo has said that Hill’s consistency helped him win the job, and added, “We went over it with a fine-toothed comb.”
But it’s more than that. To start this week against Tennessee, Hill had to gain the trust of 10 other guys on offense, and 70 other guys on the roster.
Consistency is important as South Carolina under Ryan Hilinski last year as a freshman had a +3 turnover margin. The breakdown was telling: +7 in wins, and a -4 in losses. Coach Will Muschamp, in early spring, outline several goals for this season, including turnover margin. He noted that the Gamecocks won the turnover margin in 5 games, and won 4 of them. They tied or lost the turnover margin in 7 games, and lost every one of those games.
Hill has the moxie and experience to manage the offense, characteristics that helped him overcome the injuries.
Colorado State produced a video of Hill and his rehab after the second ACL injury. It was fittingly called “The Grind.” This is how he described his mindset about that situation.
“The day of surgery, I shaved, and then I said I’m not going to shave until I’m clear,” Hill said in the video. “I don’t think a lot of people expected me to be back, but my mindset was I’m going to go to work, and that’s what coach talks about every time, coming in, and just attacking that day, and that’s what I tried to do every day of rehab. I kind of turned it into a competition.”
So here we have a guy who invents competitions against himself, or the perception of the typical ACL recovery, which he said some people pegged at 8 or 9 months.
It’s no wonder that Muschamp and Bobo, who are trying to remake their career outlooks in the SEC, picked a guy who has the kind of personality to eat gravel for breakfast.
Hill and Bobo have a long history as he was one of the top recruits in Bobo’s first Colorado State signing class in 2016. He won the starting job 3 games into the 2016 season.
Hill played in just 18 games across 3 seasons at CSU, and passed for 3,323 yards and 23 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He tore the ACL in his left knee the first time while scrambling for a big gain in his fourth start as a true freshman in a 2016 win over Utah State, per the Coloradoan. He redshirted in 2017 while recovering from surgery and tore the ACL again while playing in a pickup basketball game in March 2018, just a few days before the start of spring practices.
The third ACL tear happened this past season when Hill took a helmet to the knee while releasing a pass in a September loss at Arkansas.
Hill, a 6-5, 210-pounder, delivered the first glimpse of potential in a big moment when he led a 4th-quarter comeback to knock off UT-San Antonio thanks to a late field goal.
In February, to preview spring practice, Muschamp outlined his criteria for winning the quarterback battle. At that point, Hill was not even medically cleared, and freshman Luke Doty was still getting acclimated to college life, the program and the playbook.
“Who can lead our football team, be productive, be accurate with the football, take care of the football, score, who’s productive,” Muschamp said. “Who’s going to move our offense, be a productive offense and win games.”
Muschamp in February explained that the run-pass option would still be a part of the offense, but it would depend on the running game’s success. That is a big hinge now because of MarShawn Lloyd’s absence, and Hill’s mobility.
“If you’re able to call the run, and be successful in the run game, you don’t need to rely on RPOs as much,” Muschamp said. “Generally, that goes back to the guy carrying the ball, how special is he.”
Muschamp was asked about mobility at the quarterback position, an issue that was raised last year with Hilinski, and is obviously a question given Hill’s knee history.
“No. 1 is being accurate with the football,” Muschamp said. “You’ve got to be able to throw the football in this day and age. Do legs help, sure. But you can do some things to help yourself if you don’t necessarily have a mobile quarterback.”