Deebo Samuel is the Heisman Trophy contender the SEC needs.
Look past Derrius Guice. Gaze beyond Jalen Hurts. Turn your attention from Jarrett Stidham, Nick Fitzgerald and Shea Patterson. Make no mistake, those SEC West standouts are spectacular and can emerge as national stars as the season continues.
But the conference’s best possible outcome would be to see South Carolina’s electric wide receiver/kickoff returner serenaded in the city that never sleeps come December.
If Samuel can make it there, the SEC will have made it anywhere.
“I don’t know what else is out there, but I know the impact he has had on our football team in two ballgames, absolutely,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said of Samuel’s Heisman Trophy possibilities, as relayed by SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan. “So that’s not a big, working sample. But at the end of the day, in two ballgames, I don’t know if anybody has impacted a game more than he has for us.”
For the SEC, it would be great if Samuel’s impact leads to more Big Apple-worthy buzz in the months ahead. After all, if Samuel became a serious Heisman Trophy contender, it would mean South Carolina enjoyed a breakout season under Muschamp in the coach’s second campaign in Columbia. It would mean a sleepy Gamecocks program that failed to win more than seven games in any of the last three seasons was given new life. It would mean that more depth was added to the SEC East, which has been as strong lately as a house made of tissue paper.
Look, Samuel has been fantastic. He’s to credit for 5 of the 9 touchdowns South Carolina scored in victories against North Carolina State and Missouri. He paces the SEC in touchdowns. He’s one of seven players nationally who are tied for second in the category, behind Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall and Oregon running back Royce Freeman (6). He’s going to do more with promising sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley by his side.
Samuel’s inclusion as a serious Heisman Trophy contender late in the season would represent a turning point for the SEC East and the entire conference. It would mark a pivot from all the uncomfortable (and true) SEC-East-is-awful talk. It would be a breath of fresh air after the stale assumptions about the conference in which respect typically ends at the Alabama state line.
Goodness knows the SEC needs variety.
Forget #SpursUp. The conference needs upward movement of its own.
Yes, it would be notable if any of the SEC West stars were washed in New York City’s bright lights. League acolytes could brag about either Guice, Hurts, Stidham, Fitzgerald or Patterson emerging as among the nation’s best after the SEC was shut out of the Heisman Trophy ceremony last year. There’s never any bad news when a conference scores one or more finalists for college football’s greatest individual award.
But Samuel’s inclusion would be a strong indicator of the SEC’s improving health.
Truth be told, the conference needs an SEC East team such as South Carolina to drag itself from the muck of mediocrity to make the conference more interesting. Truth be told, the SEC aches for a program such as South Carolina or Georgia to rise with Florida treading water under coach Jim McElwain.
How many of you would be pumped for another SEC Championship Game snoozer featuring the Gators and the Crimson Tide? How many of you would be down for a third act of Alabama’s domination of Florida in Atlanta?
Samuel and South Carolina could add much-needed noise in the SEC East.
Certainly, Samuel doesn’t need to win the Heisman Trophy to score a major victory this season. He might be a long shot for the award, even with a special season. For instance, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will command massive attention if he again delights eyes from sea to shining sea.
But an invite to New York City would be a huge moment for Samuel, South Carolina and the SEC.
The best possible Heisman Trophy moment, in fact.