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Ernest Jones, Shi Smith, Israel Mukuamu taken in NFL Draft; other Gamecocks ink free agent deals

It was a busy weekend for the program’s NFL hopefuls.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

After former star cornerback Jaycee Horn made waves as the first defensive player to come off the board at No. 8 overall to the Carolina Panthers, three more Gamecocks heard their names called in the NFL Draft — and a few others found professional homes as undrafted free agents.

Junior linebacker Ernest Jones, South Carolina’s leading tackler, went to the Los Angeles Rams with their third-round pick (No. 103). Senior wide receiver Shi Smith and junior defensive back Israel Mukuamu were both sixth-round selections; Smith will join Horn (as well as fellow USC alums Joseph Charlton and Dennis Daley) in Carolina, while Mukuamu will be a Dallas Cowboy. Their selections were notable in a couple ways — Smith made it three years in a row that a South Carolina receiver has been drafted, and Mukuamu is the school’s 16th DB taken since 2002.

Smith was one of South Carolina’s most versatile stars in recent seasons, making 174 catches for 2,204 yards and 13 touchdowns over his four-year career. Mukuamu is credited with seven pass breakups and 10 interceptions during his three years as a Gamecock.

As for undrafted free agent signings, offensive lineman Sadarius Hutchinson inked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while fullback Adam Prentice signed with the Denver Broncos and quarterback Collin Hill was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Congratulations to these Gamecocks for taking the next step in their career, and we’ll see if any others find training camp destinations in the coming weeks.