Deebo Samuel won’t play Monday when the South Carolina football team faces Michigan in the Outback Bowl. But the dynamic play-making receiver is making a mark of sorts as the Gamecocks prepare in Florida.
The junior is around, with the team, helping out. On Friday, he was on the field at USC’s practice at Jesuit High School, doing things such as helping teammate Shi Smith stretch out.
“He’s always kind of giving a little insight of what he thinks or just helping Shi out,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “Them two are like brothers. It really just helps him out a lot. Just things that he sees. He’s been real big for us even though he’s not on the field.”
He’s not seen a snap since South Carolina’s third game. To that point, he looked like a darkhorse Heisman contender with 250 yards on 15 catches, six total touchdowns and a set of big game-changing plays. Then his leg got twisted under him on a tackle against Kentucky, and a fractured fibula sidelined him. (A subsequent foot injury was a setback that fully ended his season).
He has been at USC’s practices, walking around in a boot.
“It’s nice having him around,” Gamecocks tight end Hayden Hurst said. “Obviously he’s still injured. He’s going to bounce back. He’s one of our brothers.
“His spirits are still high.”
Fellow receiver Bryan Edwards said Samuel was always smiling and sprinkling in his expertise where needed.
USC couldn’t replace the ceiling of his play-making skills, but the group of pass catchers was at least talented. Shi Smith, OrTre Smith and Edwards were all four-star prospects. Hurst projects to be taken in the first two days of the NFL Draft. All have caught at least 62 percent of the passes thrown their way and averaged 10.9 yards a catch.
And even as he can’t play, Samuel has been there trying to support them.
“He’s just a good guy all around” Hurst said. “Deebo, we all know what he can do on the field. But off the field, he’s a regular guy. He wants to do what he can to help, just keeps it loose.”
Who: South Carolina (8-4) vs. Michigan (8-4)
When: Noon Monday
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Line: Michigan by 8