COLUMBIA, SC (WIS & THE BIG SPUR) - By John Del Bianco, TheBigSpur.com
Three weeks after announcing his intent to transfer from Clemson, defensive lineman Josh Belk has committed to South Carolina.
The Richburg, S.C. native, who was a four-star prospect, the No. 102 ranked player in the Class of 2018 by 247Sports Composite, and a U.S. Army All-American, announced the news on Friday night.
Belk decided to transfer from the Tigers just months after enrolling to Clemson due to personal reasons regarding his family and the desire to be closer to home as a result. Columbia and the Gamecocks are less than 60 miles down the road.
"I will be transferring from Clemson University. I appreciate the Clemson staff, fans and Coaching staff," Belk tweeted on May 16. "Thanks to Coach [Dabo] Swinney for the opportunity. Nothing bad to say about the University and my time there. Just feel that it's the best decision for my family and I."
"Circumstances in Mr. Belk's life have led him to request a full, unconditional release from Coach Swinney that was graciously granted by Coach Swinney and the University in a timely manner," Belk's attorney Everett B. Stubbs, III wrote in a prepared statement dated May 12.
The Tigers accepted Belk's commitment on January 29, 2017, beating out the long-favored Gamecocks. He was back on Carolina's campus last week (May 23), an unofficial visit to meet with head coach Will Muschamp and the rest of the football program.
"It went great," Belk told TheBigSpur.com. "Nothing changed. I would be in a great position to walk in and be a key guy to help the team. I had a good conversation with coach Muschamp about how much I can help the team. The coaches are still the fans towards me. They still want me. Showed that feelings never changed."
"I am thankful for the opportunity I had at Clemson University," Belk Tweeted in his announcement. "I am most thankful to the University of South Carolina coaches, staff and players for welcoming me into their program with open arms and allowing me the opportunity to play college football at the highest level of completion while being closer to my family. The University of South Carolina is home. I will be spending the remainder of my collegiate career wearing garnet and black in Columbia, SC playing football for Coach Will Muschamp and the USC Gamecocks. #SpursUp #musCHAMP #SEC"
Under normal circumstances Belk's transfer to South Carolina would require him to sit out the 2018 season and he would be eligible to play in the 2019 season. Hardship waivers to allow a transfer to play immediately have been granted by the NCAA in the past when a student-athlete's choice to transfer revolves around a family matter.
If the Gamecocks do decide to request a waiver, it would not be the first time Muschamp has been a part of the process.
He appealed for that waiver as the head coach at Florida when one of his players, Josh Shaw, elected to return home to Southern California for a family reasons. Shaw transferred to the University of Southern California and played out his career with the Trojans after the NCAA granted him a hardship waiver prior to the start of the 2012 season.
If Belk is granted to play the 2018 season he'll join an incoming class of defensive linemen that includes Kingsley Enagbare, Tyreek Johnson, Rick Sandidge, Jabari Ellis (JUCO signee), and Jesus Gibbs.
If he has to wait until the 2019 season to play he will be a redshirt freshman amongst currently committed linemen Zacch Pickens, Joseph Anderson, Rodricus Fitten, Jahkeem Green (JUCO prospect), and Devontae Davis (JUCO prospect).
Regardless, once enrolled over the summer Belk will be able to take part in all football activities, which includes preseason and in-season practices.