COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp believes there are plenty of abled-bodies that can help fill in for Deebo Samuel.
“Shi Smith is a freshman that’s done some nice things. OrTre [Smith] made a great catch there in the end zone,” Muschamp said. “Bryan Edwards has been a dependable guy. Our tight end group is somewhat of a wide out group with K.C. [Crosby] and Hayden [Hurst] and those guys are certainly guys that can stretch the field and attack the middle of the field.
“Next man up. That’s got to be our mentality.”
The Smiths, both of whom are freshmen, combined for 2 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in the 23-13 loss to Kentucky on Saturday night. The touchdown, a 9-yard grab by OrTre, was the first reception of his career. Shi caught 7 passes in the first two games of the season.
Edwards and Samuel share the team-lead in receptions (15). Both have caught 5 passes in each game this season. Hurst, who entered play on Saturday with 4 catches, had 4 more against the Wildcats.
But Samuel has been the top option for quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 304 yards and 2 touchdowns at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night.
“He’s going to be hard to replace, but there are a lot of other guys to go to,” Bentley said. “I mean, it’s really the next guy up and keep moving forward. We’re still going to love him and he’s going to be part of everything we do, so we’re not going to act like he’s just gone.”
But the fact remains: Samuel has been an integral part of the Gamecocks offense.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do, schematically,” Bentley said, “But it’s got to be the next guy up and ready to go.”