Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel had 2 kickoff return touchdowns before being lost for the season with a broken leg in Week 3.

What were top storylines for Gamecocks in 2017? Plus, South Carolina names permanent captains

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

The injury bug

South Carolina’s 2017 campaign will be remembered for the Gamecocks’ surprising regular-season record and the unfortunate number of injuries the team experienced.

“The biggest blow came when junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel fractured a bone in his lower left leg in the second half of the Kentucky game in September,” Hale McGranahan for SEC Country wrote. “A week after Samuel went down, South Carolina lost senior outside linebacker/defensive end Bryson Allen-Williams to a shoulder injury against Louisiana Tech.”

Beyond Samuel and Allen-Williams, the Gamecocks also lost a tight end KC Crosby, running back Rico Dowdle and a number of offensive linemen for an extended period of time.

“Despite missing so many key players in key areas, South Carolina still managed to finish Year 2 under Will Muschamp with an 8-4 record, an improvement of at least two wins from 2016,” McGranahan wrote.

Both Samuel and Allen-Williams are putting off NFL opportunities for another year to return to South Carolina in 2018.

Captains logged

The South Carolina football team has named its permanent captains for the 2017 season, according to John Whittle of The Big Spur.

Senior linebacker Skai Moore, junior tight end Hayden Hurst, sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley and sophomore “Buck” D.J. Wonnum earned the honors.

Moore and Hurst will head to the NFL after the Gamecocks bowl game, while Bentley and Wonnum will be among the team’s top upperclassman leaders next season.

Bentley threw for 2,555 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his first full season as the starter. Wonnum leads the team in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (13).

‘It went well’

Three-star offensive guard Jovaughn Gwyn provided GamecockCentral’s Wes Mitchell with some feedback on his official visit to South Carolina over the weekend.

“It went well. This time we got to chill more, so that was cool,” the Class of 2018 prospect said. “He [South Carolina coach Will Muschamp] was just telling how much they want me and everything. They want to get more athletic on the line of scrimmage. He said he believes that I can come in and fill that need.”

His teammate and 5-star 2019 running back Quavaris Crouch joined him on the visit.

Gwyn is rated as the No. 20 overall offensive guard for 2018, according to the 247Sports composite.

Another visitor

Three-star LB and Florida State commit Rosendo Louis was another prospect visiting Columbia, S.C., for an official visit over the weekend.

The Deerfield, Fla., native is rated as the No. 23 inside linebacker for 2018, per the 247Sports composite.

Taking in bowl practice

Class of 2019 4-star DE Curtis Fann Jr. was among those on hand Saturday watch South Carolina’s bowl practice.

“I liked how the D-line was practicing and how the coaches were coaching them,” Fann said of the practice. “It was my first time seeing them coach the players, so I liked that a lot.”

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end is ranked as the No. 253 overall prospect for 2019 in the 247Sports composite.

Big day in the big leagues

Several former South Carolina players had standout performances on Sunday, but it was Pharoh Cooper and Damiere Byrd whose stars shined the brightest.

Cooper, a second-year receiver with the Los Angeles Rams, posted 180 all-purpose yards between 2 kickoff and punt returns in the Rams’ 42-7 win against the Seattle Seahawks. Going into Week 15, the Havelock, N.C., native’s 28.3-yard average on kickoff returns was best in the league.

“Cooper has been a dynamic presence on special teams for the Rams, returning both kickoffs and punts, and establishing himself as a threat in both cases,” New York-based AP writer Dennis Waszak wrote.

Byrd, a former Gamecocks wide receiver, had the game of his career on Sunday in the Carolina Panthers’ 31-24 win against the Green Bay Packers.

The 5-9 dynamo made 3 catches for 25 yards and 2 scores — with his first career touchdown grab coming after officials determined his rear-end landed in bounds as he secured the ball.

Byrd has 9 catches for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.

Craving more Chicken & Waffles? Get your fix with previous versions here.