In his Monday afternoon press conference prior to Georgia’s week two matchup with South Carolina, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had high praise for South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel.
“He's probably the most underrated player in all of college football,” Smart said. “I don't know that everybody in the country knows what the SEC knows about Deebo Samuel. I mean, the guy is phenomenal.”
Samuel, a senior from Inman, South Carolina, is one of several members of an experienced South Carolina offense that the Georgia defense will face off with at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Saturday.
Samuel was off to a strong start in 2017 before breaking his leg in the Gamecocks' Sept. 16 loss to Kentucky. This season, Samuel was named a preseason first-team All-American by ESPN and preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference.
“He’s proven, you know, year in and year out, you know, he’s had some trials and tribulations, and you know, he’s ready to come back and give it his all,” senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “We’re gonna have to bring our A-game, because he’s a good player, and we go against great players every day.”
In South Carolina’s 49-15 win over Coastal Carolina last Saturday, Samuel led the Gamecocks with seven receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown.
While Samuel was out for South Carolina’s matchup with Georgia last season, Smart still remembers the impact he had on the 2016 game in Columbia, which Georgia won 28-14. Samuel tallied four receptions for 90 yards in the game.
“When you look at what he's done, even two years ago, he gave us fits in that game,” Smart said. “And then you turn around and say, okay, he has a tough injury he has to deal with, but before he had that injury he had some of the most electric kickoff returns in the country.”
South Carolina tallied 294 receiving yards against Coastal Carolina last week. Junior Bryan Edwards returned to the wide receiver corps after finishing last season with 793 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while sophomore Shi Smith is coming off a season in which he tallied 409 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The offense is also led by an experienced quarterback in senior Jake Bentley.
“They're big, they're physical,” Smart said of the South Carolina wide receivers. “They throw the ball vertically down the field. I think Jake Bentley does a tremendous job of throwing the touch passes, throwing fade routes, throwing vertical patterns; and they catch them at a high percentage.”
The South Carolina offense, led by Bentley and Samuel, presents an early challenge to a Georgia defense that has not been tested since the loss of many contributors to the NFL after last season. In a hostile road environment, the challenge against the Gamecocks could show a lot more about the Georgia defense than last week’s 45-0 win over Austin Peay did.
“You know, they kind of remind me of our team, what we have going on with the receivers and running backs and the smart quarterback they have,” junior defensive back J.R. Reed said. “We can’t make any mistakes back in the secondary.”