62 catches. 882 yards. 11 touchdown receptions. One KOR for a touchdown. One fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That is what South Carolina will look to replace when it takes the field in 2019.
Arguably one of the biggest question marks in my mind heading into this fall, who (if anyone) on the Gamecocks roster can replace the playmaking ability Samuel possessed?
Who do you believe is the top candidate to replace Deebo Samuel as the #Gamecocks primary playmaker in 2019?— The Spurs Up Show (@TheSpursUpShow) June 30, 2019
With Deebo’s departure, a new name will need to emerge to assure a productive year for the USC offense and team as a whole.
So, who are the top candidates that could fill in the shoes of the departed NFL Draft pick and current San Francisco 49er?
WR Bryan Edwards
Edwards should take over as Jake Bentley’s number one target in 2019 and looks to break a few records doing so.
The senior needs just 8 touchdown receptions, 814 yards receiving and just 45 receptions to set the all-time records for each respectively.
Bryan is another great big bodied wide receiver, showing the ability throughout his career to go up and over defenders and make tough catches.
However, he enters 2019 for the first time ever as the Gamecocks true #1 target out wide.
With Samuel’s departure, Edwards could be set up for a monster year in garnet and black.
WR Shi Smith
As far as style of play, Smith probably relates to Deebo more than anyone else I’ll mention on this list.
Shi has shown a true playmaking type ability during his time in Columbia, amassing over 1,000 yards receiving and seven touchdowns during his first two seasons.
It could be argued that Smith has been the most underrated and arguably underused member of the receivers corps since he arrived on campus.
While there have been flashes, does Smith have what it takes to step into a new role as the go-to guy for USC?
TE Kiel Pollard
You might be asking yourself: how can a guy who has just 17 career receptions be on this list?
While it’s unlikely Pollard could TOTALLY carry the load for this USC offense, he showed flashes a year ago just truly how explosive he could be.
Kiel hauled in his first two touchdown catches of his career a season ago and should get many more reps with the departures of both Jacob August and K.C. Crosby.
Watching Pollard in the spring game, it’s clear to me that South Carolina absolutely needs to find a way to get the ball in his hands as much as possible this season.
RB Rico Dowdle
For all the grief I’ve given the South Carolina running backs group this off-season, Rico Dowdle deserves to be at least included on this list.
The question is simply this: can Dowdle stay healthy and return to his freshman year form?
He was outstanding in 2016 for Carolina, leading the team with 764 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns in just nine games played.
Consistency has been his biggest issue, which has in turn led to a very inconsistent rushing attack for USC.
Could this be the year Rico finally breaks through and turns into the gamebreaking type running back we all thought he could be as a freshman?
Verdict: WR Shi Smith
Shi Smith simply checks all the boxes when it comes to being a true “playmaker” in this Carolina offense.
As previously mentioned, he’s the most similar to Samuel in regards to his measurables: size, speed, agility, vision, etc.
Good things seemed to always happen a year ago when Smith got the ball in his hands and I expect more of the same this year.
I fully expect Bryan Edwards to hold every single South Carolina receiving record when 2019 concludes.
However, don’t be surprised if it’s Shi Smith we are talking about as the true go-to guy on this South Carolina offense and team.