South Carolina arrived here to begin preparations for the Independence Bowl and will start the post-Shaq Roland era at the same time.
Roland, a junior wide receiver who starred at Lexington High School and was named the state’s Mr. Football in 2011, “is not with the team anymore” and likely will enter the NFL Draft, Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday after his team arrived here. Roland finishes his South Carolina career with 56 catches for 891 yards and 10 touchdowns, including 26 catches for 356 yards and four scores this season.
“I think he has elected to maybe drop out of school and go pro,” Spurrier said. “That was his choice, and we wish him the best.”
That was Spurrier’s only comment Tuesday about the wide receiver who at one point was supposed to be the Next Big Thing for the Gamecocks. When Roland signed with South Carolina, he became the state’s fourth straight Mr. Football to do so, joining Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney. Instead of sustained success, though, Roland had a rollercoaster collegiate career with more dips than peaks.
Roland, whose career-high of 112 receiving yards came against Wisconsin in last year’s Capital One Bowl, was suspended from the Kentucky game after missing a team flight prior to the team’s departure. After an encouraging start to the season that included a career-best seven catches against East Carolina, Roland saw his playing time decrease.
He had several key mistakes against Florida, including a missed block that almost led to a serious injury for tailback Brandon Wilds, and he did not play the next week against South Alabama.
“We just have to keep going, keep pushing on,” wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said at the time. “We just have to keep coaching him is all I can say. He’s a talented guy, got to keep coaching him and trying to get the most out of him we can get.”
Roland played in 31 collegiate games, starting 10. It’s a far cry from the career many expected him to have. Roland was a four-star prospect and a PARADE All-American after gaining nearly 2,000 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns for Lexington High School and leading the Wildcats to an 11-1 season as a senior. He had scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia and Florida, among others.
Roland was one of three wide receivers to sign with South Carolina in 2011. All three (Jody Fuller and Kwinton Smith) have now left the team. South Carolina (6-6) plays Miami (6-6) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.