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Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Hilinski to have knee surgery

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South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski is fully healthy after offseason knee surgery, but is his grip on the starting job assured? Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

COLUMBIA — Ryan Hilinski's injured knee will require surgery, but the situation does not appear to be as severe as first reported.

“University of South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski will have arthroscopic surgery to repair a small tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee,” USC announced Tuesday. “The actual date of the surgery is still to be determined. Media reports stating that Hilinski suffered a torn ACL are completely erroneous.”

A Columbia television station reported Tuesday morning that the freshman quarterback had a torn ACL and meniscus. It also reported that he would return in four to six weeks, which on the surface would seem to cast doubt that Hilinski actually tore his ACL.

A completely torn ACL usually requires six to nine months of recovery time and rehab after surgery. USC said Hilinski would be ready for winter conditioning drills in January.

Throw in that it would be nearly impossible to play six games on a torn ACL, as Hilinski is alluded to have done after injuring his left knee in an Oct. 12 win over Georgia, and the report seems thin at best.  

Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson partially tore his ACL in 2014, missed one game, then played (and won) against South Carolina a week later. He sat out Clemson’s bowl win against Oklahoma a month after that.

ABC edited its original report to clarify that Hilinski had “small” tears in his ACL and meniscus. The meniscus is a strap of cartilage in the knee that, if torn, has the quickest recovery time.

Hilinski didn’t finish the Georgia game and was limping afterward. He wore a knee brace the rest of the season, and while he was not nearly as productive as he was early in the season, he did have some nice runs.

USC's injury reports from head coach Will Muschamp have been less than completely accurate this season. Muschamp admitted after last week’s 38-3 season-ending loss to Clemson that Bryan Edwards was further away from playing than he first said. Edwards had meniscus surgery 10 days before the game and while Muschamp always said he was doubtful to play, he also said there was a small chance that he could.

“Not as close as maybe I let on to be,” Muschamp said of Edwards’ chances of playing against Clemson, a game in which he did not play.

Yet in Hilinski’s case, playing him on a torn ACL would have put Muschamp’s job in jeopardy. The coach has consistently said that Hilinski is banged up, but it was nothing that would stop him from playing.

“He’s healthy. If he’s cleared to play, then he’s healthy. That’s the way I term it to our medical people,” Muschamp said. “So he’s been fine. There’s no one 100 percent right now, that’s part of playing college football, pro football, whatever level you want to be on.”

Hilinski also dealt with an elbow injury before the Missouri game on Sept. 21, but played through it in that game and the rest of the season.

"We are completely comfortable with how Ryan has been handled by the coaching and medical staff at South Carolina," Ryan's father, Mark Hilinski, said through USC. "There was no risk of further injury with his knee so Ryan continued to play and we supported his decision to do so. While it may not be necessary, he is opting to have this procedure done to get back to full go as quickly as possible."

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

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