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Deebo Samuel To Skip Gamecocks Bowl Game

South Carolina star to focus on preparing for NFL draft …

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If the University of South Carolina football team expects to close out a disappointing 2018 campaign with a victory over unranked Virginia in the Belk Bowl, it is going to have to do it without its top offensive performer and special teams threat.

Wide receiver and kick returner Deebo Samuel – who was named a first-team All-SEC specialist (and second-team wide receiver) – announced on Monday that he will forego playing in the Gamecocks’ December 29 bowl game to focus on his future in the National Football League (NFL).

“I now have a chance to support my family and community in a way that could impact so many around me,” Samuel said on Instagram. “As much as I would love to suit up one last time for the Gamecocks, having those extra weeks to better prepare for NFL will be crucial. As I look to the next chapter, I realize the next 6 months will determine my next four years and potentially even more. I will be at the bowl game to cheer on my brothers and to thank USC, the fans and my family for making my dreams come true!”

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(Via Travis Bell Photography)

South Carolina (7-5, 4-4 SEC) entered the game as a slight favorite over the Cavaliers (7-5, 4-4 ACC).  We will have to see how Samuel’s decision impacts that betting line, as it removes offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon’s top receiving threat from the lineup.

The Gamecocks were already heading into the game without their top offensive lineman – second-team All-SEC selection Zach Bailey – who broke his fibula during the team’s regular season finale on Saturday.

“I personally support his decision,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “Deebo has been a great student-athlete, both on and off the field, at the University of South Carolina and will graduate on December 17. We appreciate all of his contributions to the University and wish him the best of luck as he pursues his dream of playing in the NFL.”

A 6-foot-0, 210-pound wideout from Inman, S.C., Samuel led the team with 62 receptions for 882 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns in 2018 – concluding a stellar career that was marred by a season-ending injury in 2017.

Samuel ranks eighth on South Carolina’s all-time list with 148 receptions, tenth with 2,076 receiving yards and is tied for ninth with 16 receiving touchdowns.  His 3,457 all-purpose yards ranks eighth.

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(Via Travis Bell Photography)

Meanwhile, he is the school’s all-time record holder (and co-SEC record holder) with four career kickoff returns for touchdowns.  Furthermore, he is South Carolina’s career kickoff return leader, averaging 29.0 yards per return.

Samuel’s 28 career touchdowns tie him for fourth on the school’s all-time list with running backs Brandon Bennett and Cory Boyd.  He scored those touchdowns five different ways – catching 16 touchdown passes, rushing for seven more, returning the aforementioned four kickoffs for scores, throwing a pair of touchdown passes and recovering a fumble for a touchdown in his final game last week.

Like Muschamp, we respect Samuel’s decision …

He is likely to be a second round pick in the NFL draft next spring, and while we would love to see him in action one more time we appreciate the factors he is weighing as he contemplates his future and the futures of those around him.  We wish Samuel all the best as he prepares to take his game to the next level and we appreciate all the great memories he provided football fans over the past four years.

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