COLUMBIA - Add linebacker Kaiwan Lewis and defensive end Mason Harris to the growing list of players transferring from South Carolina.
Lewis and Harris announced in Twitter posts Monday that they would be leaving USC to play their senior seasons at other schools. Lewis, a junior from Pleasantville, N.J., was listed as third team on the Gamecocks' Independence Bowl depth chart. Harris, a junior from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., was listed on the second team before the bowl game.
Under NCAA rules, players who have graduated can be eligible to play immediately at another school. Head coach Steve Spurrier said last week he anticipated some of his lesser-used players would take advantage of the opportunity to play elsewhere.
"After intense critical thinking over the past few months and long discussions with my family and close ones as well as praying over the winter break, I have come to the conclusion that it is in my best interest to not play my senior season here at the University of South Carolina," Lewis wrote.
"Being as though I will have my degree before the season, I will be able to play at another (Division I) program without sitting out a year. The beginning to a new chapter in my life."
Lewis started 10 games as a sophomore and made 54 tackles, good enough for third-best on the squad. He was listed as a starter at one linebacker position entering the fall, but played in just eight games this past season, making 20 stops. He did not play in the regular season finale at Clemson or in the Independence Bowl victory over Miami.
Harris played in 10 games this season, recording seven total tackles. "It has been a blessing," he wrote, "but I will not be returning to (South Carolina) for my last year."
Lewis and Harris become the fourth and fifth Gamecocks players to leave the USC squad since the end of the regular season. Junior receiver Shaq Roland left the program prior to the bowl game, and redshirt freshman fullback Gerald Turner from Goose Creek transfered to Charleston Southern, where he will play defensive end. Deon Green, a third-team defensive tackle, left the program last week.
Spurrier said some players are encouraged to consider other schools where they would stand a better chance of seeing time on the field.
"We recommend they do that," he said. "We've got some guys going into their fifth year who we don't think are going to play much here. So go somewhere where you can play. That's a good rule they have now, and hopefully some of our players will take advantage of that."
The departures of Green, Harris and Lewis are perhaps less surprising given the overhaul awaiting the Gamecocks defense, which finished this past season ranked 13th in the SEC. South Carolina has targeted that side of the ball in recruiting, and is adding a number players like lineman Marquavius Lewis and linebacker Sherrod Pittman, who are expected to contribute immediately.