NFL Bound: How The Departures Of Shi Smith And Ernest Jones Will Impact The Gamecocks Moving Forward

On Tuesday afternoon, just a day after Shane Beamer’s introductory press conference, South Carolina wide-receiver Shi Smith and linebacker Ernest Jones declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, planning to not come back next season and pursue their dreams in the NFL.

Both Smith and Jones announced their departures on Instagram, with both having personal letters to South Carolina fans in what was a reflection of their time here and what’s to come.

With both of those guys regarded as South Carolina’s “leaders”, what’s next? The Gamecocks now have two big voids with a leader on its defensive side gone and a leader on its offensive side gone, with potentially more to come. 

With having both of these guys declaring, Beamer and company will immediately begin to plan around their departures and fill the voids fast.

The NCAA allowed a one time free transfer waiver for all NCAA Division-1 athletes, which in my opinion is going to be a very important thing for the South Carolina football team in the days and months to come.

Instead of recruiting skilled position guys out of high school, Beamer and his staff can now look in the portal, where many many players will bee looking for a new home.

Defensively, this is imperative, as the majority of the current 2021 class is offensive positions, with many wide receivers and not many linebackers or other special defensive positions. The Gamecocks should be looking in the transfer portal for almost every position other than wide receiver, but it wouldn’t hurt to have some guys who have been in college for a few years and are ready to join the Shane Train in the next step of their college career.

The Gamecocks will also be able to look to their own team, with a lot of guys out there who just need to be developed more, which is critical for the WR position.

We saw many freshman Wide-receivers this season who just need to be developed a little to be elite, the same can be said for the guys South Carolina will be recruiting for this year’s class. The key for the offense is development, and it all depends on who Shane Beamer lays out for his offensive staff.

On the defensive side of the ball, South Carolina will look for Sherrod Greene to step up in Jones’ position, as he did for a few games this season where Jones was injured. We saw a lot of great things from Greene this season, and just a little development in the offseason will help him out a lot. 

There is also the leadership quality that will have a void, with Jones being the leader on the defense and Sadarius Hutcherson and Shi Smith being the leaders on offense, who will all be leaving. South Carolina will need both Jalen Brooks and Rico Powers to step up and raise their voice as a leader, and on the defensive side the Gamecocks will look to Zacch Pickens to be the defensive leader, as he will be a junior and will really be the focal point of the defense. 

There is no doubt that South Carolina lost two of its great players and will never forget both of their impacts on and off the field. Now South Carolina will look to the future, and try to rebuild both sides of the ball. 

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