**Release by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**
South Carolina's three best players were named to preseason watch lists for prestigious awards on Monday. Quarterback Jake Bentley and receiver Deebo Samuel made the watch list for the 81st Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year, and linebacker Skai Moore made the list for the 23rd Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football.
Bentley started the final seven games of the season last year, leading the Gamecocks to a bowl appearance after a 2-4 start. Bentley threw for 1,420 yards, nine touchdowns and completed 65.8 percent of his passes in his inaugural campaign.
Samuel battled injury problems early last season, but came on strong in the second half to become South Carolina's go-to receiver. In the Birmingham Bowl, Samuel tied a program record with 14 catches to go with 190 receiving yards. Samuel has scored nine career touchdowns, six on the ground, two receiving and one on a kick return. The junior was named preseason first-team All-SEC as an all-purpose back and second team All-SEC as a kick returner by Athlon.
Moore redshirted last season because of a neck injury, but immediately becomes the Gamecocks' best defender when he returns to the field. He led the team in tackles his first three seasons, and entered his senior season with 260 career tackles. The 2015 second-team All-SEC selection could become the first Gamecock to ever lead the team in tackles four different years. He also has 11 career interceptions, three short of Bo Davies' school record.
Moore was also later named to the Bronko Nagurski watch list, handed out by the Football Writers Association of America to the best defensive player in college football.
Monday marked the start of SEC Media Days, an annual event in Hoover, Alabama that unofficially marks the kickoff of football season. South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, tight end Hayden Hurst, Bentley and Samuel will be the Gamecock representatives in Hoover and will speak to the media on Thursday. Stay tuned to spursandfeathers.com and our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates from the festivities.