USC defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles made the most of his junior season.
One of the team’s four captains, Quarles earned a spot on the All-SEC first team with his 36 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss, a figure that ranked second in the conference. His 9.5 sacks also were second in the conference.
His season was so good that he popped up on the radar screens of NFL teams, and it appears likely that he will skip his senior season and enter the draft.
“That’s the feeling right now. I feel like I did all I could at South Carolina,” Quarles said. “I’m just going to play it by ear, depending on how this game goes, but I had a great season and the team had a great season. It’s going to be a tough decision to leave because South Carolina is in my heart forever, but you’ve got to move on.”
Quarles, a Greenwood native whose father Buddy played for the Gamecocks under coach Joe Morrison from 1984-87, has played a significant role in a program that’s pursuing its third straight 11-win season. A win against No. 19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl also would give No. 8 USC (10-2) its third straight top-10 finish.
“It’s big. We did goals at the beginning of the year, and we talked about finishing in the top 10 and going to a good bowl game,” he said. “South Carolina, at one point in time, wasn’t used to going to a big bowl game, so we’re really blessed and honored to be in this position right now.”
The most points scored by a South Carolina team in a bowl game came in the 2006 Liberty Bowl, when the Gamecocks defeated Houston 44-36. That’s the only time USC has surpassed 40 points in 18 bowl trips. The most yards passing (341) came in last year’s 33-28 victory in the Outback Bowl. The most yards rushing (218) came in the 2001 Outback Bowl, a 24-7 victory against Ohio State. The total offense record (512) was set in that 2006 win against Houston.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. It’s like turning the next page of your life. It’s a sad moment because it flew by so fast. I remember stepping on campus in 2009 and now I’m about to hang up my cleats at South Carolina. I’m like, ‘Where did my time go?’ … We still want to move the program forward, not just with this team but with teams in the future. I want to come back and possibly see these guys compete for a national championship one day.” - USC senior Chaz Sutton on playing his last game