(CBS Local)- This Saturday, September 14th, CBS will open its coverage of the SEC this season with the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide traveling to Colombia, South Carolina to face the Gamecocks.
And there is one pretty powerful story line coming in, one that SEC on CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl pinpointed when speaking to reporters this week on a conference call.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Ryan Hilinski in person. His background and this family that is coming in to South Carolina and making an impact the way that they are off the field is a really special setup for what they have been through,” said Erdahl. “I just got off the phone with some of Ryan’s teammates, and it really just seems like this South Carolina program already had a pretty impactful family dynamic behind it. But now the Hilinski family has come in, and they’re sending a really cool message. And I think it brings this team together in a really special way.”
Hilinski, a true freshman for the Gamecocks, is the younger brother of former Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski, who died of suicide in January of 2018. In the wake of Tyler’s death, his parents started Hilinskishope an organization that aims to help generate the funding necessary to fund programs dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental illness and help provide better mental health care for student-athletes. The whole Hilinski family, including Ryan’s older brother, Kelly, made the move with him to South Carolina this year, and as ESPN reported, Ryan spends most nights at Kelly’s apartment.
Ryan started his first game for South Carolina last week, leading the team to a 72-10 win over Charleston Southern and looking in full command of the offense in the process. And while his performance against Alabama will certainly get plenty of discussion during the game, the larger story of the Hilinski family, fighting their way through the aftermath of Tyler’s death and hoping to help others in the process, is one that Erdahl and many watching the game will be keeping an eye on for years to come.
As for the game on the field, Vegas has it as a bit of a mismatch, with the Tide entering the game as 25.5 point favorites. Alabama has looked to be much of the same machine that it was last year on offense, with Tua Tagovailoa leading an attack that is both balanced and explosive. There seems to be little chance that South Carolina pulls off the upset, and yet, Erdahl’s broadcast partner Gary Danielson says that was the case the last time these teams met in Colombia and we know how that turned out. The Gamecocks, led by Stephen Garcia, Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore stunned the Tide 35-21. The key to pulling a similarly surprising result this time around? Danielson says it’s to put some doubt in the Tide’s mind in the second half.
“I have always said this, with Alabama you have to get them to the second half and get them to feel nervous about winning the game,” said Danielson. “The way Alabama is measured is, they have to win every game. Or, if they lose one, they’re supposed to still be in a position to win the national championship.”
“But, if you stay in the game and have the pressure shift to them, you can do it,” continued Danielson. “Steve Spurrier had a great call in that game, they slowed it down ran 62 plays, and they kept Alabama’s offense off the field. Everything went right. And that is what has to happen for this South Carolina team. It’s not going to be easy, but I think there may be a couple of ingredients that can keep them in the game.”
Erdahl and Danielson will join broadcast partner Brad Nessler when CBS opens its SEC coverage on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.