Draft Prospect Outlook:
Effective as in-space blocker for screens. Willing but not overly powerful or impressive in-line against bigger defenders. Fluid athlete who can stretch the field down the middle and on the perimeter on wheels. Downfield speed is above-average. Hands aren't an issue. Good TE2.
Tight end Hayden Hurst took a roundabout path to South Carolina but ended up starring as one of the best players at his position in the SEC. Hurst signed a professional baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates out of The Bolles School in 2012 with dreams of becoming a major league pitcher. When that plan didn’t work out, a walk-on opportunity with the Gamecocks came about. He bounced back and forth between tight end and wide receiver as a freshman in 2015 catching eight passes for 106 yards. His sophomore year with a scholarship in hand, Hurst flourished setting single-season school records for receptions (48) and yards receiving (616) for a tight end. He was also the first player in school history to be named a permanent team captain as a sophomore.
Hurst contemplated leaving school after his sophomore season but elected to return in 2017, in part to focus on his blocking. The coaching staff said he improved in that area from his sophomore to junior season, but he was still relied upon heavily for offensive production as well. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder caught 44 passes for 559 yards during his final season with the Gamecocks along with two touchdowns. For the second straight season, Hurst was voted a permanent captain by his teammates.