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Josh Belk’s winding road through college football has taken another turn.
The 6-foot-3, 360-pound South Carolina freshman defensive tackle has left the Gamecocks football team six months after joining it as a transfer from Clemson.
“After talking with Josh Belk, he has decided to give up the game,” USC head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement released by the school. “He is a fine young man and we wish him the best.”
Belk’s decision to leave could be injury-related. Will Mitchell, his coach at Lewisville High School in Richburg, said Wednesday that Belk recently had an MRI on his back. Later in the day, Mitchell said via text that “the back issue turned out to be pretty serious.”
VizorSportsSC reported via Twitter a quote from Belk saying he had “fractured a vertebrae and decided to choose another path in life.” Belk later retweeted that with the comment “#Godsplan.”
Belk struggled with a passion for continuing to play the sport since arriving on campus, a source told The State. WACH Fox sportscaster Mike Uva, citing a source, reported that Belk was having a hard time getting along with the team and that factored into his decision to leave.
The Gamecocks begin spring practice on Feb. 27.
Belk was a four-star recruiting prospect when he signed with Clemson in December of 2017. He participated in spring practice with the Tigers in 2018 but then left the team and enrolled at South Carolina in the summer. He officially joined the Gamecocks when practice started in August.
After obtaining a waiver to play for the Gamecocks immediately, Belk played in six games during the 2018 season, recording seven tackles. His most productive game came in the Dec. 29 Belk Bowl, when he had three tackles against Virginia. Belk was expected to play a larger role in the 2019 season if he was able to keep his weight under control.
The Gamecocks return five players with significant experience on the interior of the defensive line, Keir Thomas, Javon Kinlaw, Kobe Smith, Kingsley Enagbare and Rick Sandidge, all of whom had more tackles than Belk last season. Belk was rated a five-star prospect by 247Sports when he was in high school.