South Carolina football: Gamecocks need Jalen Brooks to play

The South Carolina football team needs help at wide receiver.

Jalen Brooks joined the South Carolina football team in August following a transfer from Tarleton State University. After a fantastic offseason with his new teammates, Brooks had moved up the depth chart, and looked poised for an opening day start versus Tennessee.

Unfortunately, the NCAA denied his eligibility waiver late last week, which is a joke on many levels. Will Muschamp and the Gamecock coaching staff have appealed the decision as they work to get Brooks on the field as soon as possible. Muschamp has been asked if the NCAA’s given a timeline for its ruling.

“They have not. I know that we’re working through that right now, the appeal with the NCAA. But I don’t know the time on that.”

Brooks started his career at Wingate University, where he grew into an all-conference performer in his first two seasons. He then decided to make the move to Tarleton State, a Division II program that was transitioning to its first ever season at the FBS level. The Texans had agreed to join the WAC for the 2020-21 athletic season.

While he did make the move to Tarleton State, his stay was short lived, as he opted for a spot on the Gamecock roster a few short months later. Brooks never saw the field for the Texans.

Still, the NCAA is punishing Brooks for his semester-long stint by ruling him ineligible in a season where there are no eligibility restrictions due to COVID. Brooks’ status (3 years to play 2 seasons) with the Gamecocks doesn’t change whether he plays or not, so it’s a bit of a headscratcher to see the NCAA denial. Especially with the wideout moving closer to home, which typically helps out in these decisions.

What’s worse is that three other SEC East opponents have had players ruled eligible over the past few months. Even players transferring inside the conference, which is usually automatic grounds for a year of ineligibility. Georgia had its ruling on transfer quarterback JT Daniels (Southern Cal) easily approved. Cade Mays has gotten NCAA approval after his move from Georgia to Tennessee. Kentucky passer Joey Gatewood just got word that he’s eligible for the Wildcats’ week two matchup after transferring from Auburn.

So why not Brooks?

Jalen Brooks would be an instant impact player for South Carolina football.

Jalen Brooks
WR University of South Carolina

Brooks’ ineligibility is hurting the Gamecocks at its thinnest and most inexperienced position. South Carolina had two opt outs over the offseason from upperclassmen pass catchers, making the group even thinner. The opening day two-deep roster listed two sophomores and three true freshmen at wide receiver.

Those two sophomores had combined for just 15 catches prior to last weekend’s opener. Two players in the wideout rotation began their careers as quarterbacks. The Gamecocks could certainly use the help of an all-conference performer with 24 games of experience, 52 receptions, over 1,000 yards, and 10 scores.

Brooks is a big play threat, too, averaging more than 20 yards per catch in his last season. His presence would take some pressure off of Shi Smith, who was targeted 14 times in the season opener.

South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner isn’t happy about the ruling, either, and he made it known in an interview with local radio station 107.5 The Game this week.

“It just seems to be too many inconsistencies and arbitrary decisions that get made. You can say everything is case by case, but it doesn’t seem consistent at times that it is case by case. We’ve done an appeal to try to get his eligibility as quickly as possible. I don’t know how much luck we’ll have doing that. It would make sense to me to give this young man… an opportunity to play right away.”

The NCAA has remained quiet about the appeal this week, meaning Brooks is trending towards another game on the sidelines when South Carolina takes on Florida. The Gamecocks will keep their fingers crossed that a decision is made soon, because the offense is going to need all the help it can get at wide receiver as it looks to keep pace with an SEC-leading Florida attack.

Saturday’s game in the Swamp is set to kick off at noon, with the contest being aired on ESPN. The Gamecocks opened the week as three-score underdogs.

Next: 5 takeaways from season opener