The defensive makeover promised by South Carolina’s coaches after the disappointing 2014 season continued Monday with announcements by two defensive veterans that they will finish their careers elsewhere.
Junior linebacker Kaiwan Lewis and junior defensive end Mason Harris will transfer during the offseason, each announced via Twitter on Monday afternoon.
Lewis, a 6-foot, 228-pounder from Pleasantville, N.J., started 10 games in 2013 but only one in 2014. Harris, a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder from Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., also started one game this season. Neither announced where they expected to finish their playing careers.
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said last week that the coaching staff planned to encourage several players who already had their degree and weren’t expected to contribute greatly in 2015 to finish their careers at another school where they might be able to earn more playing time. Lewis already has earned his degree.
“First and foremost I want to say thank you to the University of South Carolina for allowing me to finish what I started as far as gaining my degree prior to the 2015 season,” according to a statement he released on Twitter. “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 NOT to play my senior season of football here at the University of South Carolina. Being as though I will have my degree before the season, I will be able to play at another division 1 (sic) program without sitting out a year. The beginning to a new chapter in my life.”
Lewis was South Carolina’s third-leading tackler in 2013, totaling 54 stops and intercepting two passes. He was penciled in as the starting middle linebacker entering preseason camp in 2014, but quickly fell out of the regular rotation and barely played by the end of the season. Lewis, who played in eight games and started one last season, had 20 tackles this year. He was suspended from the Oct. 18 game against Furman for a violation of team rules.
In November, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward was asked about the drop in Lewis’ playing time.
“Kaiwan has been at a little disadvantage because we have played a lot of spread-you-out teams,” Ward said. “Kaiwan is more of what I call a Big Ten linebacker. He’s one of those smash-mouth guys you want to keep inside against the run, but we play so many teams that spread us out. That’s why his playing time has been limited.”
Harris, who was projected to become a defensive end for South Carolina but struggled to add enough weight to play on the defensive line, had seven tackles this season to give him 18 for his three-year career. Harris won the team’s “Everyday Effort” award last spring.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Deon Green decided last week to transfer.
Thank you God for the opportunity! It has been a blessing, but I will not be returning to SC for my last year. Ready to start my new Ch.— Mason Harris (@Mason_Harris34) January 12, 2015
A new beginning. Keep grinding because I got many reason. pic.twitter.com/2D0atBstor— Kaiwan Lewis (@KaiwanLewis_USC) January 12, 2015