COLUMBIA, S.C. – Deebo Samuel is back at full speed and that is great news for South Carolina.
The sophomore wide receiver returned Sunday after three weeks off rehabbing a hamstring injury. For an offense in dire need of explosive plays, his return was a welcome sight.
“It felt good,” Samuel said. “These past couple weeks have been kinda miserable for me trying to stick with the rehab, but I got back out there.”
Samuel was one of the bright spots offensively for the Gamecocks. He had 90 yards receiving on 4 receptions and powered through contact for a tough 9-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of USC’s 28-14 loss to Georgia.
Hamstring issues have been a recurring theme for Samuel in his career dating back to high school. He missed 9 games in 2015 and was again sidelined for part of preseason camp with a hamstring injury.
He was healthy for one week – USC’s win at Vanderbilt – before coming up short on a deep pass from Perry Orth on the first play at Mississippi State in Week 2. He played off and on throughout the 27-14 loss in Starkville and had been sidelined since.
“When it happened, I knew it wasn’t as bad as it was (last year),” Samuel said. “So I knew I would be able to get back into action soon.”
“Soon” did mean missing three weeks, but he had big receptions of 39 and 33 yards Sunday.
Coach Will Muschamp took a deliberate approach with Samuel, erring on the side of caution before bringing back his standout receiver and risking more hamstring issues.
“Obviously, it didn’t help us with a couple weeks keeping him out, but he wasn’t fully healthy,” Muschamp said. “We needed to get him back full speed.”
Samuel felt that way Sunday, when he wasn’t the lone addition to the USC offense. Freshman wide receiver Bryan Edwards also missed the Texas A&M game with a hamstring injury. He returned against Georgia to make 3 receptions for 35 yards.
“They are big-time players and they made plays for us,” Orth said. “It was awesome having them back. Obviously, Hayden (Hurst) made a ton of plays. We’ve got playmakers.”