Gamecocks: 'Bowl games mean everything' for momentum, motivation
Perry Orth can’t imagine how South Carolina’s football team could use Deebo Samuel more than it already does.
“He’s caught the ball, thrown the ball and run the ball, I’m not sure what else there is,” said Orth, the Gamecocks senior quarterback.
Samuel can think of a way.
“Yes, sir,” Samuel responded with a big smile when asked if he’d like to take snaps as a Wildcat quarterback for the Gamecocks.
It’s not something the soft-spoken Samuel has brought up to head coach Will Muschamp or offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but he’d be happy to hear it if they came to him about it.
“Yes, sir,” he said, with that smile again.
In 2016, Samuel had to settle for doing just about everything else for the South Carolina offense. The 6-foot, 205-pound sophomore wide receiver from Inman is the team’s leading receiver with 45 catches for 593 yards, fifth-leading rusher with 94 yards and five touchdowns and has completed a 33-yard touchdown pass.
“We have gotten the ball in his hands a lot,” Orth said. “It’s a shame he was hurt at the beginning of the year or he’d be having an incredible season.”
Samuel was limited by a hamstring injury the first five games of the season. He caught a combined four passes against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State in the first two games of the season and then missed the next three games. Samuel’s absence from the lineup coincided with the quarterback struggles of Orth and Brandon McIlwain, who eventually were benched in favor of Jake Bentley.
Having a playmaker like Samuel on the field “makes all the difference,” Orth said.
Although Samuel has yet to score a receiving touchdown, he’s second on the team in touchdowns thanks to his five rushing scores and one 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Samuel’s rushing touchdowns have come on the jet sweep handoff the Gamecocks call “Rockets.”
“In my head, every time we call that play I think I’m getting in the end zone,” Samuel said.
Samuel, a Chapman High School graduate, was on the sideline last weekend as Chapman won a state championship. It was at Chapman where he got his first taste of running the Wildcat quarterback position, taking about five snaps a game at the position.
It was also at Chapman that his history of hamstring problems began. He missed most of first season at South Carolina due to a hamstring injury and suffered another one on the first play against Mississippi State this year. Now, he starts every day he goes to the team’s facility with hamstring rehabilitation that includes electric stimulation, ice and weight lifting.
“It’s just a routine now,” Samuel said. “When I am out there (on the field), I am just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. I don’t even think about my hamstrings.”
He does think about that Wildcat spot every now and then, though.
Who: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 29
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Line: USF by 10