By now you know the story, but here’s a refresher.
In an interview, South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel was asked about Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker. Deebo responded with a casual “Who?”
— Bryce Dixon (@dixonbryce) September 5, 2018
Obviously, Deebo knew who Baker was, as both were named to various preseason all-american lists, and they would be matched up with each other in the upcoming Gamecock – Bulldog showdown.
Baker took it in stride, deflecting when asked about it. Baker was determined to let his on-field play do the talking on Saturday. Potential viewers salivated at the thought of two talented pro prospects going head to head, and the two players did not disappoint on Saturday.
Before moving forward, take a look for yourself at the prominent head-to-head reps between Samuel and Baker to draw your own conclusions on how they fared:
*Note: Deebo Samuel is aligned to the offense’s left on each play below.
Full Deebo Samuel vs. Deandre Baker highlights (with Baker’s “pick-almost-six” and Samuel’s TD pass added in)
While Baker definitely made his name known, Samuel quietly had a nice and efficient day himself pic.twitter.com/XW9Iode7JN
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) September 12, 2018
When South Carolina came out for the first possession of the game, Baker was aligned over Samuel. The Gamecocks wasted no time, targeting Samuel on the second and third play from scrimmage. On the first, Baker had a nice pass breakup on a curl route. On the second, however, Samuel went vertical and Baker was called for a defensive pass interference.
Listen, I’m a wide receiver guy through and through. My entire day is spent hating defensive backs. But this ain’t no pass interference. Despite the flag, Baker won the opening series.
On the next drive, a pass bounced off South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle’s hands, popping up for Baker to run under it. Baker returned it all the way to the 1 yard line, where he inexplicably dropped the ball in early celebration. Luckily for Baker, it was recovered in the endzone by a veteran Bulldog trailing the play. While not matched up with Samuel on the play, it was a nice showing of field awareness by Baker.
Later on, Samuel got behind Baker on another vertical route, but wasn’t targeted. The next time he went vertical, though, he was targeted and Baker was holding on for dear life. This time, the defensive pass interference was justified. The second round went to Samuel.
On that same drive, South Carolina dialed up some razzle-dazzle, and Deebo threw a touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards. This play, like Baker’s interception return, wasn’t a matchup between the two players but showed off Samuel’s playmaking ability.
On a fourth and ten play, Baker made his finest play of the day as he blanketed Samuel and matched his hands on a curl route. The result was the ball being popped in the air for what should have been an easy Bulldog interception.
The next two times Samuel and Baker were matched up, Samuel got open but he and Quarterback Jake Bentley weren’t on the same page with one resulting in and incompletion and the other resulting in no target.
On a third and 12 play, Samuel ran a dig and caught the bullet from Bentley. Unfortunately, Samuel was slowed down by the Umpire, and Baker made the tackle for a gain of only 10. It’s hard to know how the play would have resulted had the ref not been there, but it was a nice recovery by Baker as he prevented to third and long conversion. The middle portion of the matchup was mostly a wash.
Throughout the end of the first half and early portions of the third quarter, Samuel got loose for 3 short completions against Baker. One of those was a beautiful toe-tap catch along the sideline that he pulled in for a gain of 9 despite the contact from Baker. The end portion of the matchup belonged to Samuel, but with Georgia already ahead by multiple scores at the time, Baker was allowing the underneath plays.
Overall, I think the matchup between Deebo Samuel and Deandre Baker was even. Counting the penalties, Samuel was thrown at 9 times while being covered by Baker and it resulted in 61 yards for the offense. Additionally, there were a few instances when Samuel was open and not targeted, but also plays where he was the primary read and Baker had him covered.
It’s reasonable to suggest that both players’ draft stock held steady after the game. Deebo showed off efficient breaks and the ability to get loose vertically, while Baker proved he has plus ball skills and awareness.