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Former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst spent two years in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system before coming to Columbia, S.C.

Hayden Hurst reflects on time at South Carolina; plus, Gamecocks freshman lineman wants to play early

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Moving on

As former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst moves closer to his dream of playing in the NFL, he can’t help but be thankful for his time with the Gamecocks.

“I owe everything that I’ve become to this university. I came on as a walk-on and not many people knew who I was,” he said. “I had a dream, had a vision and I worked every day to try to make it happen. Coach [Will] Muschamp and his staff came in here and gave me an opportunity and I kind of ran with it. I love this city. This place changed my life.”

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end departed the program with 100 catches for 1,281 yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as 1 rushing score, through three seasons.

Hurst earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2017 after leading the conference’s tight ends with 41 catches for 518 yards.

‘Try to outwork’

Three-star center and Class of 2018 prospect Hank Manos has already enrolled at South Carolina and begun his push for playing time along the Gamecocks offensive line.

“[Offensive line coach Eric Wolford] said there’s some competition. Obviously, there’s always going to be competition in a college setting, but there’s nobody that he doesn’t think that I [can’t] out-effort and out-tough,” Manos said. “That’s my goal, as far as playing, just try to outwork, try to out-tough. That’s what I learned from Chapin.”

The Chapin (S.C.) High School standout was rated as the No. 7 overall prospect in South Carolina for 2018, per the 247Sports composite.

Stepping up

When South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel broke his leg against Kentucky in Week 3, freshmen receivers OrTre Smith and Shi Smith were thrust into the spotlight — and, according to John Del Bianco of The Big Spur, the duo delivered.

“Shi finished with 29 catches for 409 yards and 3 touchdowns, good for the second-most receiving yards by a true freshman in the conference. He had no drops, which led a group that led the SEC in drop rate,” Del Bianco wrote. “OrTre was right behind him, third in the SEC with 326 yards on 30 catches for 3 touchdowns.”

OrTre and Shi were ranked as the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, respectively, in South Carolina in the 2017 recruiting cycle.

You’ll be missed

Who will the Gamecocks miss the most in 2018? Outside of Hurst, linebacker Skai Moore may be the toughest to replace, per The State’s Josh Kendall.

Moore is only the 15th player in college football history to lead his team in tackles for four years. The Cooper City, Fla., native finished his career at South Carolina with 351 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 5 sacks and 14 interceptions.

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Talent-rich state

South Carolina boasts some of the top basketball prospects in the 2019 recruiting cycle, including 4-star power forward D.J. Burns, 4-star point guard Deuce Dean and 3-star center Malcolm Wilson.

Burns is among the most in-demand prospects in the country, already boasting offers from Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma State and more.

“[South Carolina coach Frank Martin] talks to my parents a lot, but I don’t really talk to him as much, but he’s still [in contact],” Burns said of the Gamecocks’ pursuit. “I talk to coach [Perry] Clark. Coach Clark is the one who really talks to me.”

According to the 247Sports composite, eight of country’s top 200 prospects for 2019 call South Carolina home.

On the court

Former 5-star SF Brian Bowen and PG Rakym Felder joined the South Carolina men’s basketball team in pre-game warmups for the first time this season on Tuesday night.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Bowen, who arrived by way of Louisville, must sit out this season.

Felder rejoined the team this semester after being suspended from the team and university over the summer. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native averaged 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game as a freshman last season on South Carolina’s Final Four team.

Upset at CLA

The excitement didn’t end with the new faces in the pre-game shootaround on Tuesday night.

South Carolina rallied from a 14-point deficit to topple No. 18 Kentucky 76-68 at Colonial Life Arena. Junior forward Chris Silva scored a game-high 27 points, with graduate transfer guard Frank Booker chipping in with 18 points off the bench.

With the win, South Carolina improved to 12-6 overall and 3-3 in the SEC.

The game against the Wildcats was the first in a critical two-game home stand for the Gamecocks. South Carolina hosts No. 21 Tennessee on Saturday.

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