Jalen Brooks among five South Carolina players to receive NFL Combine invites

Sam Wolfe/Special To The State

Five South Carolina Gamecocks are heading to Indianapolis.

Receiver Jalen Brooks, guard Jovaughn Gwyn, defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, and cornerbacks Darius Rush and Cam Smith all received invitations to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, the league announced Wednesday.

Brooks was perhaps the biggest surprise of the USC contingent after he was not selected for the Senior Bowl all-star game, though Gwyn, Pickens and Rush were. Smith wasn’t eligible for the Senior Bowl given he declared for the draft following his junior year.

Brooks, a North Carolina native, finished second on the Gamecocks in receptions in 2022 behind Antwane “Juice” Wells, recording 33 catches for 504 yards and one touchdown. Brooks was not able to play in the Gator Bowl due to an “off-the-field” issue, per Shane Beamer. He also missed the final seven games of the 2021 season due to an off-field issue.

Smith is expected to be the first ex-Gamecock off the board during this spring’s NFL Draft. The Blythewood product is a near-consensus first round pick from most major scouting outlets and would be the second former South Carolina corner to be picked on Day 1 of the draft in three years after Jaycee Horn was taken No. 8 overall by the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

Rush is perhaps the biggest climber of the bunch. He was lauded for his performance during Senior Bowl practices and is now in line as a possible second- or third-round pick.

Pickens, a former five-star recruit, anchored the middle of the South Carolina defense this past fall. Despite sitting out the bowl game, the T.L. Hanna alum finished the year with a career-high 42 tackles.

Gwyn was among the stalwarts along a Gamecocks offensive line that took its lumps early in the season before stabilizing during Southeastern Conference play. A late add to the Senior Bowl, he finished his time at South Carolina starting in 47 of his 49 appearances.