According to South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, tight end Hayden Hurst will give up his senior season to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
A 6-5, 250-pound product of The Bolles School in Jacksonville (Fla.), Hurst has 35 receptions for 480 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2017 for the Gamecocks. His career total of 91 catches is an all-time high for the program at the position.
He’s familiar with the draft process because Hurst originally came to USC as a walk-on following a stint as a minor league baseball player. He was chosen in Round 17 by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of high school — turning down a scholarship to Florida State — in 2012. The right-hander was a pitcher in 2013 and then played first base during the 2014 campaign.
Hurst is a two-time nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given annually to the most outstanding player in America who started out as a walk-on.
As a freshman in 2015, Hurst caught 8 passes for 106 yards as a backup to Jerell Adams, who would go on to be drafted by the New York Giants in the sixth round. Off the field, he was placed on the 2015-16 First-Year SEC Honor Roll.
Named a permanent team captain in 2016 — the first sophomore in team history, by the way — Hurst rewrote the ‘Cocks record book at tight end with 48 grabs for 616 yards despite three different starting quarterbacks throwing him the ball. He scored his first TD as a collegian against USF in the Birmingham Bowl.
Not only was Hurst on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, but he finally earned a a well-deserved scholarship from Muschamp.
While he played last year in the shadow of Ole Miss’s Evan Engram and Alabama’s O.J. Howard, who both ended up being first-round selections, Hurst has clearly established himself as the premier tight end in the SEC for 2017.
He has 15 more catches and 195 more yards receiving than any player in the conference at his position — six tight ends have reeled in more TDs, though — which should result in him being first-team All-SEC. Back at Media Days in July, Hurst was a second-team choice behind Isaac Nauta of Georgia but has outplayed him statistically by a wide margin.
Because Hurst will be 25 in August, age certainly played a factor in his decision to leave eligibility on the table in Columbia.
According to experts, Hurst will be one of the top tight ends available in the draft and could hear his named called as early as Round 2. He’ll be in competition with the likes of Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews and Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli.
On top of having prototypical size for the next level, coaches and general managers will be impressed with Hurst’s pure athleticism. In addition to his pass-catching prowess, he has 7 carries for 33 yards and a TD — he’s even completed 2-of-3 passes for 21 yards. Muschamp has gone out of his way to praise his progress as a blocker, too.
With Muschamp’s blessing, Hurst will participate Saturday in Senior Day at Williams-Brice Stadium prior to kickoff against Wofford.
Source: Saturday Down South