Roberts latest to leave USC football team

South Carolina linebacker Marcquis Roberts, who recorded 31 tackles last season, becomes the latest player to leave the Gamecocks program. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

COLUMBIA — Marcquis Roberts, a linebacker who redshirted two seasons because of injuries but returned to start five games last year, has become the latest player to leave the South Carolina football program.

USC confirmed Tuesday that Roberts was no longer with the program. Last year as a redshirt sophomore, Roberts played in all 13 games, recording 31 tackles and two pass breakups. He becomes the eighth player to leave the program in the wake of last season, not including tailback Mike Davis, who departed after his junior campaign to enter the NFL Draft.

Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said last month he expected a number of players with eligibility remaining to leave for other schools where they might see more time on the field. The exodus since the Clemson game has included wide receivers Shaq Roland and K.J. Brent, fullback Gerald Turner, linebacker Kaiwan Lewis, defensive end Mason Harris, and defensive tackles Na’Ty Rodgers and Deon Green.

Turner, a Goose Creek native, transferred to Charleston Southern, where he will play on the defensive line. Lewis has transferred to Rutgers. Reports have indicated Roland is transferring to Prairie View A&M, but he is not yet listed on the program’s 2015 football roster. Harris and Brent also have expressed an intention to transfer to another school.

Most of the players who are leaving USC with eligibility still remaining are on the defensive side of the ball, where the Gamecocks ranked 13th in the SEC last season. South Carolina emphasized defense in its recruiting, signing a number of players it hopes will contribute immediately, and last week hired former NFL assistant Jon Hoke as new co-defensive coordinator.

Roberts, 6-1 and 216 pounds, redshirted his first season at USC due to a shoulder injury from high school that turned out to be a torn labrum, and then lost another campaign when he tore the ACL in his left knee three days into practice. The native of Powder Springs, Ga., returned to start nine games in 2013, but saw his playing time gradually diminish as younger players with USC’s linebacker corps began to assert themselves.

Roberts entered the 2014 campaign third on the depth chart. He started five games last season before USC coaches paired Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton together at linebacker, which helped spark an improved defensive effort in three of the Gamecocks’ final four games. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.