USC Gamecocks Football

How close is Deebo Samuel in his recovery? 'About 85-90 percent'

South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel during warmups for the spring game.
South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel during warmups for the spring game.

ESPN's Tom Luginbill laid the question directly to South Carolina football star Deebo Samuel.

Where is he at in the recovery process from the broken bone that ended his 2017 season, and altered both his Gamecocks career and the course of last year's team?

"I'd say about 85-90 percent," Samuel said.

Samuel dropped that detail as part of the SEC Network's longer look at his recovery and comeback from the injury that ended what was shaping up to be an All-American-type season. In the video, Samuel is seen doing work in a pool, cutting in drills and catching passes during the part of spring practice where he was healthy.

Through the video, teammates and coaches praised the way Samuel attacked the rehab process. Strength coach Jeff Dillman said he often had to slow Samuel down, prevent him from trying to do too much at once. Coach Will Muschamp said it was a valuable message to other players of how to react when "life isn't fair."

Through nearly three games last season, Samuel was a darling of the sport. He counted a pair of kick return scores and two highlight-reel catches among his six touchdowns. His big plays had sparked South Carolina to a win at Missouri and proved vital in topping North Carolina State in the season opener.

But on what he explained was a 12-yard curl route against Kentucky, a defender got on his back and fell awkwardly on his ankle. He was taped up and played out the drive, but at the end of the night, Muschamp declared his season over.

He thought he'd have a chance to come back, and after it looked possible, a foot injury ensured the fourth-year junior, who sat with the seniors on photo day, would return to Columbia for another year.

He got some work in spring, but an injury flare-up limited him for some stretches, including the spring game.

Getting even 85 percent to 90 percent of the Samuel from last year would go a long way toward USC's aim of matching or improving on last year's nine-win campaign.

But August camp is still months off and he's still working. He explained to the SEC Network what was the hardest thing to get used to again.

"Cutting again," Samuel said. "When you break something, you're kind of timid to put your foot in the ground and change direction."

Injured South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel stretches out Shi Smith during Outback Bowl practice.