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Shi Smith, Ernest Jones announce departures for NFL Draft

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The Gamecocks will be without a couple stars next season.

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Shane Beamer era at South Carolina will start without a couple familiar faces in 2021, as senior wide receiver Shi Smith and junior linebacker Ernest Jones announced their intentions to prepare for the NFL Draft via their respective Instagram accounts.

Smith, who would have been able to return due to the NCAA allowing an extra year of eligibility owing to the coronavirus pandemic, had the type of senior season Gamecock fans wanted to see from him after key departures from the team’s receiving corps left him its most veteran and talented option. Smith finished with 57 catches for 633 yards and four touchdowns, topping off a career that saw him rack up 2,204 yards and 13 scores on 174 receptions.

Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jones, the Gamecocks’ leading tackler both this season and the last, came on even stronger in 2020 and was one of the few highlights on a defense that otherwise took its lumps. He finished with 86 tackles (42 solo) and added a sack, three hurries, and a forced fumble and recovery. For his career, he tallied 169 tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions.

That now makes four big names from South Carolina to have declared for the draft: Defensive backs Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu announced their intentions earlier in the season, opting out of the remaining handful of games when coach Will Muschamp was fired. Attrition — whether it’s via the draft or transfers — will be something to keep an eye on as Beamer gets settled in.