Farewell, Kelcy Quarles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The junior departs for the NFL, leaving a trail of destruction and lovable interviews in his wake.

Back in May, GABA writer/boy genius Connor Tapp had this to say about Kelcy Quarles:

As long as he can stay healthy, he should once again be a leader on a veteran South Carolina defensive line. Barring injury, he could make a run at All-SEC honors, potentially launching him into a decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

Lo and behold, that all came to pass. Quarles will depart for the NFL on the heels of a magnificent season, and there's really little argument against his doing so.

A prep school placement, Quarles worked his way up the depth chart and was a fixture on the defensive line since taking over as a starter midway through the 2011 season. He's presided shoulder-to-shoulder with Jadeveon Clowney over the Gamecocks' run of 11-win seasons.

Let's take a look back!

2010

A 4-star recruit and son of former Gamecock Buddy Quarles, Kelcy committed to South Carolina as a part of the 2010 class. However, he would spend the season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for academic purposes, before eventually joining the team in 2011.

2011

Quarles was quick to make an impact, appearing in all but one game and starting the final six. He finished the season with 28 tackles and two tackles for loss.

2012

While Jadeveon Clowney was putting together his legendary 2012 season, Quarles did his part to round out a scary defensive line that will ultimately see all its starters in the NFL. Quarles' eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks were good for 3rd and 4th on the team, respectively. A slight blemish on the season came in the form of a one-game suspension after Quarles threw a punch at an LSU player (the suspension paralleled an injury, so he wouldn't have played anyway. Quarles also missed the following game against Tennessee.) A minor Quarles storyline involved his admission to taking up yoga to increase his flexibility, at the suggestion of then-defensive line coach Brad Lawing.

2013

Quarles showed out in 2013, leading the team in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (13.5) and finishing third in the conference in both of those categories.* Perhaps the benefactor of the added attention paid to Clowney, Quarles earned a number of All-Conference and -America honors. Few held out hope he'd stick around for a senior season, especially after his father revealed Kelcy's plans to declare in early November. While the younger Quarles downplayed the report—likely a display of his characteristic team-first mentality—the writing was on the wall.

*Auburn's Dee Ford moved past Quarles with a pair sacks in the National Championship game.

As sorry as we are to lose a top flight player and teammate, declaring for the draft is clearly in Quarles' best interest. His value is as high as ever—few DTs outside of Pittsburgh all-everything Aaron Donald had better seasons—and he's four years removed from high school. Add to that his witnessing Jadeveon Clowney's numbers dip after a monster year and the ensuing increased attention from coordinators, I can think of no compelling arguments for Quarles completing his eligibility.

CBSSports.com rates Kelcy Quarles as the 8th best DT in the draft and projects him as a 2nd or 3rd round selection. Here's hoping he signs a fat contract, and that he's paid in cash so he can do this:

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