COLUMBIA — What’s with the waiting? He never waits.
Dakereon Joyner never waited to step in as a freshman quarterback at Fort Dorchester High School, never waited to go for the big score when the Patriots needed it.
He didn’t wait to join the South Carolina football team in January instead of enjoying a final high school semester. And he didn’t wait to plunge his nose into the playbook or his voice into the quarterback room.
But he knew, as soon as he committed to the Gamecocks, that he may have to do something he wasn't used to.
Wait for his time to do what he was put on the Earth to do.
Joyner is an athletic specimen at quarterback and absolutely electrifying with the ball in his hands. USC coach Will Muschamp constantly mentions the numbers — nearly 10,000 passing yards in his prep career, a 40-game winner who claimed a state championship and the state’s coveted “Mr. Football” Award.
Yet there is Jake Bentley, USC's two-year starting quarterback with at least one more full year, ahead of him. And Michael Scarnecchia, a fifth-year player who has toiled as the anonymous backup since he enrolled. And Jay Urich, another QB prospect who totes a satchel full of prep accolades and spent last season running the Gamecocks’ scout team.
Joyner was going to be waiting unless a major emergency arose. A redshirt season is a strong possibility, something that Joyner has previously said he can handle, but an experience that’s definitely strange.
“He’s picked up everything well,” Bentley said of Joyner, who, like all freshmen under Muschamp, is prohibited from speaking to the media. “There’s freshman mistakes here and there but he’s made some plays.”
Last week’s Garnet and Black Spring Game was Joyner's first public unveiling as a USC player, and it was full of those freshman mistakes Bentley mentioned. While taking into account that Joyner and Urich were going “live” in the scrimmage, meaning they could be hit by the defense while Bentley and Scarnecchia weren’t, Joyner displayed some things that QBs just can’t do at the college level.
On some of those runs where he waited, waited, waited and then took off, he learned he must keep the ball tucked in instead of as a parcel in an outstretched hand. That led to a lost fumble.
On that pass where he eyeballed his intended receiver from the snap, then fired a bullet that was intercepted, he learned he's got to look off that receiver, even if it’s just the glimpse you give a side-view mirror on the highway.
“No I'm not great, but I will be. No I'm not the best passer but I'm working to be,” Joyner re-tweeted after the game, a remark he originally made in 2017. That’s been the line since he enrolled, that he’s a tremendous athlete but has to work on his passing.
But there were moments in the spring game when everyone saw what made him a top recruit. He can split the defense when he takes off running. He does have an awareness of when to cut, when to deke, so he can get more yards, and he has no problem sticking his head into a pile of defenders near the goal line.
Bentley lauds the pup’s willingness to learn, something that quarterbacks coach Dan Werner echoed. “Again, he’s one of those guys you’ve got to kick him out because he’s over here too much,” Werner recently said, before being asked the million-dollar question.
Will Joyner play this year? It’s as feasible for USC to design packages to take advantage of his athleticism as it is feasible for USC to avoid that, since it could telegraph the offense’s plans directly to the opposing defensive coordinator.
“It’s definitely realistic,” Werner answered. “If it gets to where we only use a limited role for him or whatever it is we have to do, we’ll make it work.”
Everyone waits to see what Joyner’s role will be in 2018, while Joyner waits to play. He’s fine with that, knowing it was likely before he enrolled, and is confident the reward will be what’s always said to come to those who wait.