South Carolina wide receiver coach Bryan McClendon didn’t seem keen to dwell on the subject.
His star pupil, Deebo Samuel, is a crucial piece in the South Carolina football team’s attack. That star pupil has also missed parts of the past two seasons because of hamstrings that wouldn’t cooperate, an issue stretching back to his high school days.
So how do you keep them from flaring up?
“First, you’ve got to knock on wood and not ask about it,” McClendon said. “You know what I mean?”
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Samuel broke out as the Gamecocks’ most proven threat with the ball in his hands, despite those hamstring issues flaring up. If healthy in 2017, he could be on the short list for most productive pass catcher in the SEC.
When the former Chapman receiver was hobbled or out in 2016, USC’s offense averaged fewer than 200 passing yards and 6 yards per pass (a number that would have ranked in the 110s nationally).
The hamstring knocked out Samuel for the first seven games of 2015 and most of four more in 2016.
McClendon said the team will take and has to take precautions, starting with tests and monitoring.
“He’s one of those guys that we actually do hydration tests (on) now,” McClendon said. “Obviously, you’ve got to make sure that you watch him during certain times when he has certain yardage milestones in practice and things of that nature.”
The team tracks player movement with the catapult wearable technology system.
But the work to keep him on the field goes beyond mathematical tracking and into the rudiments of how the team cares for Samuel and how he cares for himself.
“We’re doing everything we can do off the field, eating right, getting the right amount of rest, things like that,” McClendon said. “So I think that’s the biggest step that he’s taken forward to better himself in that area.”