Ellington joins three juniors in declaring for NFL Draft

uscfoot-23Four South Carolina junior football players have declared for the NFL Draft, but it’s the Gamecocks basketball program that may have taken the biggest hit.

Two-sport star Bruce Ellington, coming off a huge performance at wide receiver in USC’s 34-24 Capital One Bowl victory over Wisconsin on Wednesday, joined three football teammates who were expected to leave one year early – defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton.

Ellington also announced he will forego their final year of college eligibility, leaving the Gamecocks basketball team without one of its top scorers. The 5-foot-9, 196-pound guard from Moncks Corner also led the Gamecocks with 49 receptions for 775 yards and eight touchdowns during the 2013 campaign. He saved his best performance for his last game, when he registered six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns and threw a nine-yard TD pass to Connor Shaw in the Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin.

A two-sport standout, Ellington finished his football career with 106 receptions for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns, seventh on the all-time list. Ellington, who graduated in December, will begin preparing for the draft and will not complete his final season with the men’s basketball team.

“I would like to thank Coach Spurrier, Coach Horn and Coach Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina,” said Ellington. “I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It’s been a great experience and I’ve been truly blessed.”

Clowney, a 6-6, 274-pounder from Rock Hill, joins Warren Muir and George Rogers as the only Gamecocks to earn first-team All-America honors in two seasons. Clowney finished his Gamecock career with 47.0 tackles for loss, second in Carolina history, and 24.0 sacks, the school’s third-best mark. He set the school’s single-season records with 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss while earning unanimous first-team All-America accolades and the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end during the 2012 season.

Quarles, a 6-4, 298-pounder from Hodges, S.C., was the most decorated Gamecock in 2013, earning first-team All-America honors according to Sporting News and second-team All-America accolades by the Associated Press, CBSSports.com and Athlon. Quarles was a unanimous first-team All-SEC selection after leading the team with 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He finished his career with 13.0 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.

Hampton, a 5-10, 202-pounder from Darlington, earned a spot on the Associated Press’s All-SEC second team in his final season in the Garnet & Black. The hard-hitting lockdown corner picked off three passes in 2013 while breaking up an additional nine passes. He logged 51 tackles, including 43 solo stops. Hampton collected five career interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his three-year stint.

The Gamecocks finished the 2013 season with an 11-2 record, their third-straight 11-win campaign.

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