This week, we are doing a new series contemplating which Gamecock players are most vital to the team’s success. Today we’ll start on offense, looking at the explosive and multi-talented Deebo Samuel.
After struggling with soft tissue injuries for most of his career, Deebo Samuel performed in a big way down the stretch once healthy last season. The 6’0” wideout was explosive in both the run and the pass games, and capped the year off with an impressive 14 catch, 190 yard performance in the Birmingham Bowl. With an entire season injury-free, Samuel could build upon his status as one of the most versatile and dangerous weapons in the SEC, and provide Bentley with the steady hands needed to consistently move the ball.
In order for the Gamecock offense to reach its full potential, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will have to create mismatches using Deebo Samuel like he did last year, especially on end-arounds and quick passes in the flat. This allows Samuel to do what he does best, eluding tacklers and picking up valuable yards after the catch. In fact, after Week 6, Samuel tied for most forced tackles missed in Power Five conferences (according to Pro Football Focus). But the love from PFF doesn’t stop there, as Samuel had the third lowest drop rate across the Power 5 conferences as well, at a ridiculous 2.83%. That kind of dependability is something the Gamecocks sorely need, as although the Gamecock receiving corps is deep, it is also very young.
You see it all the time in the NFL, veteran receivers putting in extra time after practice to work with the rookies. Now in his fourth season with the team, Samuel should be able to mentor the new recruits, talented guys like Shi Smith, OrTre Smith, and Chad Terrell. The faster that they become acclimated to the Gamecock offense, the faster that they can get on the field and provide even more versatility to the attack. Samuel will get plenty of opportunities to help Shi especially, as he is currently running with the first-team in the slot, a position where Samuel has gotten plenty of reps.
Deebo Samuel’s impact in the running, passing, and receiving games should make a lot of fans very excited and optimistic about his potentials, both statistical and leadership-wise, in 2017. Emerging as a true number one receiver last year, Samuel should make things a lot easier on true-sophomore Jake Bentley as the Gamecock offense looks to propel the team to a successful season.
So what would a prosperous season look like for Samuel? Statistically, 1,100 yards and six TD’s through the air, with an additional 150 yards and five TD’s on the ground. Sprinkle in a return TD or two and you could be looking at an All-American wide receiver.