South Carolina’s players expressed surprise Monday to be starting their third week of spring practice without their backup quarterback.
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what was going on,” junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel said of Brandon McIlwain’s decision to leave the team, which was announced March 1.
The Gamecocks players hadn’t been available to the media since that time.
“He had made a bad decision at practice (two weeks ago), and him and (offensive coordinator Kurt) Roper got into a little coach-player argument,” Samuel said. “The next day I looked and was like, ‘He’s really about to leave.’ I don’t know what was going on.”
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Samuel emphasized that he didn’t know of McIlwain’s disagreement with Roper prompted McIlwain’s decision to leave. The former four-star prospect had been splitting his spring time between the football and baseball teams, and he was a backup on both squads.
McIlwain participated in the football team’s first two spring practices, on Feb. 25 and Feb. 27. His argument with Roper happened during the Feb. 27 practice, and he did not attend the Feb. 28 practice.
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who beat out McIlwain for the starting job midway through the 2016 season, said McIlwain didn’t discuss the decision “with anybody.”
“That’s his decision. I hope the best for him and hope it works out for him,” Bentley said. “The last couple months Perry (Orth) graduated and now Brandon is transferring. It’s kind of the two closest players on the team to me leaving so that’s been kind of tough on me. It’s tough to see him go but he has to do what is best for him.”
McIlwain started three games for South Carolina early in the 2016 season.