South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp offered some hope Sunday night that Deebo Samuel might return to the football field this season but not much.
“We are not certain when he’s coming back. I don’t want to comment much on the status part of it,” Muschamp said. “You never know. The surgery went extremely well. (Team orthopedic surgeon Jeff) Guy was extremely pleased with how everything went. We will see what happens. He will be out for an extended period of time.”
Samuel suffered a fractured left fibula just above his ankle during the third quarter of Saturday night’s 23-13 loss to Kentucky. He returned to the field for one play after the injury but then left the game and went to the locker room. Muschamp said immediately after the game that Samuel would not return this season.
“Extremely disappointed for Deebo, a guy that’s worked extremely hard, having a fantastic year, and I really hurt for him right now,” Muschamp said Sunday. “He’s a young man who’s put a lot into it.”
South Carolina right tackle Zack Bailey (ankle) and defensive end Dante Sawyer (hamstring) also were injured in the Kentucky game and are questionable for Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech, Muschamp said.
“I will know more on Tuesday on those two guys,” Muschamp said.
Samuel, who is second in the SEC in all-purpose yards with 158 per game, was the undisputed star of the start of South Carolina’s season, and his absence leaves a large physical and emotional hole on the team.
“Unfortunately we have to move on. Man down, man up,” Muschamp said. “We are not going to have excuses in this organization. We have some young men who are capable of stepping up, and we expect them to.”
Samuel is fourth in the SEC in receiving with 83.3 yards per game. Through the first three games, he averaged 24.9 yards every time he touched the ball, which led the SEC among players with enough opportunities to qualify for the official statistics.
He had surgery early Sunday afternoon, his mother Precious Martin told The State.
“We are expecting a full recovery,” Martin said. “He will be back on that field before you know it.”
This is not the first time Samuel has had to deal with an injury during his South Carolina career. After redshirting in 2014, the former Chapman High School started the first game of his redshirt freshman season but suffered a hamstring injury in that game and missed seven games that season. As a sophomore, he shared the team’s Steve Wadiak MVP award with Jake Bentley but missed three games and was limited throughout the first half of the season by another hamstring injury.
In his career, Samuel has 86 catches for 1,194 yards and five touchdowns and 17 carries for 128 yards and seven touchdowns. He holds the school’s career record for kickoff returns for a touchdown with three, and last year he tied the school’s record for single-game receptions with 14 in the Birmingham Bowl.
Samuel was “extremely upset” Saturday night, Muschamp said.