College Sports

With all the injuries, who is still playing tight end for South Carolina?

Bryan McClendon explains how Kiel Pollard has transitioned to the coaching staff

South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon discusses how former tight end Kiel Pollard has transitioned to help the Gamecocks after an injury forced him to retire from football before his senior season.
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South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon discusses how former tight end Kiel Pollard has transitioned to help the Gamecocks after an injury forced him to retire from football before his senior season.

Going through the offseason, Kyle Markway seemed destined to be South Carolina football’s top in-line tight end.

That role would have him most often right next to an offensive tackle, using his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame to move folks around, sometimes sneak out for passes and only occasionally split out wide.

Things have changed. Markway now has a case as South Carolina’s top tight end at most everything. He’s the only one with real game seasoning. It’s a case of shortage, as injuries hammered the Gamecocks.

“I’m doing a little bit more of what Kiel (Pollard) used to do, splitting out stuff,” Markway said. “I’m doing most of both. I’m trying to get good at both. We’re trying to work on that. For sure. And then everybody’s getting reps. We’re gonna need everybody step up.”

Markway is the only member of the group, down to 4 to 5 eligible players, who could be considered game-ready. Top option Kiel Pollard had to retire because of a spinal condition. Athletic fourth-year player Evan Hinson is out for a few more weeks after surgery.

The rest of the group is:

Will Register — A third-year player who has seen minimal time and is more of an in-line guy.

KeShawn Toney — A mobile true freshman who is still very much a true freshman.

Traevon Kenion — A dynamic receiving talent who got to spring practice late and missed much of camp with an undisclosed injury.

Chandler Farrell — A former offensive lineman whose skill lies more on the blocking side than anything else.

Farrell was a mid-camp switch and drew some praise from offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon.

“Obviously, he’s not the same type of guy that Kiel or Evan would be,” McClendon said. “So you have to you have to make sure that you ask him to do something that he would be good at doing. But you know, so you have that and then like I said, what you got to be ready to do is mix up and make sure that you get different personnel groups that can kind of feel that void.”

Part of that will be relying heavily on three-receiver looks. That still means one tight end on the field, though, and limits flexibility to a degree, but going to what’s called 11 personnel means getting the team’s best talent out there.

“That’s what we’ve been majoring in,” McClendon said.

There’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the freshmen. In the Will Muschamp era, the Gamecocks have not played a freshman tight end in a significant role. That might have to change this season.

McClendon noted both Toney and Kenion have been getting much more work because of the injuries to the other players. That in itself might bridge the gap.

Things could become much easier if Nick Muse, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Williams & Mary, was granted eligibility, but the NCAA has been silent on the potential impact player. Muse has the build of an in-line player, but he’s the most accomplished receiver the team has at that spot.

Quarterback Jake Bentley said he saw good things from Toney and Register, and he expects the team to ask more from those unproven guys.

“I really think a lot of tight ends are going to get a lot of playing time this year,” Bentley said. “They’ve gotta be ready and ready to help us.”

It’s an outlook Markway, who has all of six career catches to his credit, shares. His group is unproven and needs someone to kick in.

Like the rest of us, he’s waiting to see who it is.

“Come Week 1, we’re going to see,” Markway said. “When their number is called who steps ups and performs.”

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