COLUMBIA, S.C. — When South Carolina football took to the practice field Saturday morning, Brandon McIlwain was getting ready for a Saturday afternoon baseball game against Wright State.
The sophomore quarterback currently is a sophomore outfielder with the Gamecocks baseball team, leading him to be at Founders Park and not at the first spring football practice Saturday. Still, in the middle of a busy baseball schedule and academic obligations, McIlwain is making time for football this spring.
“He’s battling to be the starter,” coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s been involved in all of our meetings, all of the mental stuff that is going on. In the recruiting process with Brandon and his parents, he was going to play baseball full-time after his first spring. That’s where we are.”
Last spring, McIlwain fully participated in spring football as he battled for the starting quarterback spot. He also played baseball, recording 1 hit in 10 at-bats. This spring has seen a flip, as McIlwain’s main commitment is to baseball. He has made a pinch-running appearance in the first seven games for the Gamecocks.
The experience is something not unfamiliar to quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper, who coached Baltimore Orioles outfielder Seth Smith during his time at Ole Miss. Smith was a quarterback backing up Eli Manning and a baseball player in the spring.
“What you have to do is take advantage of the time you do get in the meeting room,” the South Carolina offensive coordinator said. “That guy has to really understand that he has to challenge himself to take it all in and when we do get some reps on the football field, then he has to take advantage of it.”
McIlwain started three games at quarterback last season for the Gamecocks, completing 52.5 percent of his passes for 600 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jake Bentley, his classmate, claimed the starting job for the second half of the season and is heading into his first spring at South Carolina.
Earlier this spring, McIlwain said he felt he was being given a “great opportunity to compete in both” baseball and football. He also said he would make time for football on the side, which he has been doing through attending meetings.
“Obviously, that’s beneficial,” Roper said. “But we get him from baseball when it doesn’t conflict. He is 100 percent baseball, but when it works in Coach (Chad) Holbrook’s schedule to send him to us, he does. But he is a baseball player beyond the meetings right now.”