What Collin Hill Can Expect From Tennessee

Brian Smith

It just would not be college football season without some quarterback drama in the SEC. Of course, this time it’s actually South Carolina that’s in question. Afterall, Tennessee has been through some serious quarterback heartache the past several seasons. The Volunteers’ quarterback issues aside, South Carolina made its quarterback decision.

Will it be the first and last?

To be clear, let’s not read too much into the decision to start graduate transfer Collin Hill. In 2019, the Colorado State transfer was 69 for 102, with 840 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Additionally, those statistics were against a lower level of competition than what he will face at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium. What should South Carolina fans expect?

Hill now plays in the SEC. This is a different level. Keep your expectations grounded, Gamecocks fans, at least for now. There are some things to like, too.

Hill is a big quarterback, listed at 6-4, 222-pounds within the newly released depth chart. He fits the mold of major college quarterback, traditionally speaking. He is not, however, the modern dual-threat signal caller that drives opposing defensive coordinators crazy by picking up third down and seven with his quickness and speed. Hill is going to ‘spin it to win it’, or not. If things do go awry.

This is not a done deal at quarterback. 

Regardless of what South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp states publicly, there’s not going to be a long leash for Hill (barring COVID-19 concerns for other quarterbacks). Certainly not after a 4-8 record to conclude the 2019 season. Muschamp needs to win sooner than later. Muschamp must feel that Hill gives the Gamecocks the best chance to win.

As for now sophomore signal caller Ryan Hilinski, being named the No. 2 quarterback could be a litmus test. Does he rise to the challenge or does he sulk over offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s decision to start Hill?

Time will tell. One thing is likely. Hilinski will be needed sooner than later. Again, it’s the SEC. It’s rugged, it’s tough, it’s flat out brutal. That’s especially true this season with a 10 game schedule and no out of conference cupcakes squished in between the big boys. 

Hilinski already knows about playing for the Gamecocks. Be ready young man. You're up next. If your number is called, you must be ready. Speaking of ready, here are two Tennessee players that Hill and/or Hilinski should pay closer attention to than what many people in the media or amongst fans would think.

First up, the cornerback Bryce Thompson. Thompson is a 5-11, 190-pound talent that’s emerging. He’s likely NFL bound if he continues on his current trajectory; the Gamecocks undoubtedly know this. South Carolina must be ready to counter their game plan to make sure Thompson does not wreck it. 

Thompson accounted for three interceptions last season. Like any experienced SEC cornerback, Thompson will be looking for any chance to get his hands on a pass Saturday night. 

That means that even if it’s Alontae Taylor, and he’s certainly a good cornerback in his own right, the cornerback opposite Thompson will be the likely cornerback to see more action, i.e. passes coming his way. 

Watch out for South Carolina taking a shot or two down the field when Thompson and/or Taylor leave the game to take a breather. The juniors are good, but they aren’t going to play every down. There’s one more player to really watch, especially in the passing game.

This will be the first time that highly touted and now sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o will be counted on to be a leader and help line up the other players. He will have a lot on his plate. The 6-2, 225-pound Hawaain can really run, but can he quickly diagnose a naked bootleg with a tight end running into the flat?

That’s the type of play that wide receiver turned tight end Keveon Mullins could exploit, and he could do it from the H-back, fullback or tight end position as well, because South Carolina will likely provide Tennessee with a variety of looks from its bevvy of tight ends available for this Saturday’s game.

It’s common for power running teams like South Carolina to attack the edges with the quick passing game to keep a defense honest. If To’o To’o struggles with his reads, perhaps the Gamecocks will catch him out of position. He’s No. 11 for the Vols. Keep an eye on him.