Week 1 of Operation Replace Deebo: Mixed for the South Carolina football team.
With star wide receiver Deebo Samuel sidelined, the Gamecocks offense that was looking for continuity and consistency before he went down looked very much like that kind of unit, minus one of the top playmakers in the country.
That was true at least for three quarters, before USC had five plays of 24 or more yards in its final nine snaps to complete a sudden rally from down 13 against Louisiana Tech. The production was a little more balanced, with everyone getting a hand in.
“We did all right,” sophomore wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “We left a couple plays out there. I think me, myself, on the deep ball where I dropped it, could have had six right there.
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“We did good for the most part.”
He was referring to a deep shot Jake Bentley put on his hands that he couldn't haul in, but he still finished with 122 receiving yards, the best mark of his career.
The rest of the receiver numbers:
▪ Freshman OrTre Smith: two catches, 36 yards, 28-yard TD
▪ Redshirt freshman Randrecous Davis: two catches, 23 yards, one carry for one yard
▪ Freshman Shi Smith: one catch, 14 yards
▪ Freshman Chad Terrell: one catch, six yards
So that’s diversity, with one really explosive play (OrTre Smith’s score where he blew through a pair of defenders), but it also points to the youth at the position.
“I was really proud of OrTre Smith today,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “Made a big catch down there, went up for another one, almost got that one. Bryan stepped up as he always has.
“Shi Smith did some nice things for us. Like I said in the week, when you talk in terms of replacing a guy like Deebo, not one person is going to do that.”
The Gamecocks also got 43 yards through the air from tight ends and 41 from running backs.
The kick return situation was more of an issue, as South Carolina’s average starting field position off kickoffs was the 22.2. The average return was down to 14 yards.
The offense will get a stiff test next week, with a Texas A&M team that lives in tight press coverage. It will be another challenge for a group that did well enough in round 1.
“The receivers this week knew that they had to step up,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “So a lot of guys stepped up and made some plays for us.”