The University of South Carolina football team will likely be getting some injured players back for the Belk Bowl to be played in Charlotte on Saturday, Dec. 29, but it will be playing without first team All-Southeastern Conference performer Deebo …
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The University of South Carolina football team will likely be getting some injured players back for the Belk Bowl to be played in Charlotte on Saturday, Dec. 29, but it will be playing without first team All-Southeastern Conference performer Deebo Samuel.
Samuel, an electric wide receiver and kick returner, announced via social media that he will forego playing in the bowl game and begin focusing on the 2019 National Football League draft.
"I now have a chance to support my family and community in a way that could impact so many around me," Samuel said in part on his Instagram account. "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 six 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!"
USC head coach Will Muschamp backed Samuel's move.
"I personally support his decision," Muschamp said in a statement released by the school. "Deebo has been a great student-athlete, both on and off the field, at the University of South Carolina and will graduate on Dec. 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."
Samuel, was named to the first-team All-SEC unit as an all-purpose performer and was a second-team selection at wide receiver. The 6-0, 210-pounder from Inman, led the Gamecocks with 62 receptions for 882 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. He rushed eight times for 26 yards and returned 23 kickoffs for 570 yards, a 24.8-yard average. He also completed one pass attempt for a 13-yard touchdown.
USC offensive guard Zack Bailey, who suffered a broken leg in Saturday's 28-3 win over Akron, was named to the second team unit as well.
USC will be taking on Virginia in the Belk Bowl. The game will be televised nationally on ABC beginning at noon.
South Carolina and Virginia both come into the contest with 7-5 records. The Gamecocks, who are in their third bow game in three seasons under Muschamp, went 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference, good for a tie for third in the Eastern Division. The Cavaliers went 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and tied for third in the Coastal Division.
While the teams may be just four games over .500 combined, Muschamp sees this as a pivotal contest for his program.
"(There's) a lot on the line for us - eight wins, would be only the 15th time in school history, and
back-to-back eight or more wins for only the seventh time in school history, so we've got a lot
on the line versus Virginia," Muschamp said on Sunday. "(Virginia head coach) Bronco Mendenhall, I don't know personally, but I've got a lot of respect for him and the job he did at BYU and certainly how he's turned around the Virginia program."
Virginia won the first two Belk bowls in 2002-03. Ironically, the last time the two programs met was in '03 in Columbia. Carolina won that game 31-7.
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