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Young Deebo Samuel embracing leadership role

Day 4 Updates

South Carolina has 16 wide receivers on it’s 2016 roster. Eleven are freshman. Only three have ever taken a snap in a regular season game.

The Gamecocks leading returning receiver, Deebo Samuel, has 161 total yards and one touchdown after only playing in five games last year due to a hamstring injury.

But with so many questions revolving around the receiver position, it’s Samuel who’s stepping up to try and answer every single one.

The redshirt sophomore from Inman, South Carolina said he’s taken a big step forward with his position group to try and be a more vocal leader on and off the field, trying to be a mentor to the group and change the perception that they are the “downfall” of this year’s team.

“Out of the receiver group I am the oldest one with the most experience,” he said Thursday. “We have brought in five new freshman receivers, and they are going to be able to help as well. My job is to push them to make them better and myself better.”

Samuel redshirted his first season in Columbia and spent the next season mostly on the sidelines with an injury while learning from current Los Angeles Ram Pharoh Cooper. During that time he said he’s worked on becoming “bigger, faster and stronger” to try and be ready for when his number’s called.

That time is now.

Samuel is the most experienced receiver on the team, which is not saying much. Now in his third year, he’s ready to make that jump to a leader, and that’s starts at Media Days. Head Coach Will Muschamp said he chose to bring Samuel to Hoover for the event because he’s stepped up as a leader and separated himself during spring practice.

And with new responsibility, comes new traditions.

As part of his leadership role, Samuel said he’s helped organize players-only practices, where the team comes out and works without any of the coaching staff there.

He said it runs exactly like a normal practice, just without the coaches. The players, he said, approach it with the same intensity and attitude they would with normal, scheduled practice.

Who Samuel will be looking to get open for still remains a question. The Gamecocks still haven’t named a starting quarterback for their opener against Vanderbilt, but Muschamp said Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain are the two frontrunners.

What is known is Samuel, who’s listed as the first-string wide out, will be on the field for the opener. Even though he’s still a novice to the limelight and the starting role, he’s not shying away from it at all.

And he’s even embracing his role as leader, even though he’s only caught 12 total passes in his career.

“I don’t find it weird at all. Coaches expect a lot out of me,” he said. “They’re pushing me to boost the receivers we have coming in so we can throw the ball more.”