October 30, 2013 10:09:42 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Jamaal Clayborn and Artimas Samuel weren't supposed to be in uniform this season for the Mississippi State football team.
MSU coach Dan Mullen's plan was to have the first-year players redshirt to they could learn the speed of college game and digest the playbook. The number of injuries the Bulldogs suffered this season scrapped that plan and led to Clayborn and Samuel making their debuts Thursday against Kentucky at Davis Wade Stadium.
After six weeks as practice players, Clayborn lined up at guard on MSU's last offensive drive, while Samuel, who had the last name on the back of his jersey spelled Sameul, made a 28-yard diving catch as part of a scoring drive.
"They came in and were ready to play," Mullen said. "They went out there and performed. The good thing (is) I didn't see a lot of nerves on them. They now understand what a game is like."
Clayborn and Samuel are listed in backup roles on MSU's depth chart for its game at 11:21 a.m. Saturday (WCBI) at South Carolina.
Clayborn will back up right guard Ben Beckwith, a former walk-on, thanks to a season-ending injury to Justin Malone and Dylan Holley's ineffectiveness at balancing guard and center. Former West Lowndes High School standout Brandon Hill will miss Saturday's game with an unknown injury, so Samuel, a 260-pound tight end from Hargrave Military Academy (Va.), will back up Malcolm Johnson.
"I really should've probably ripped the redshirt off them sooner to prepare them for this better, but that wasn't the idea going into this season," Mullen said. "I don't know who saw this many injuries happening this soon."
Sophomore Will Redmond, who played in his first career game against Bowling Green, will back up Taveze Calhoun at cornerback. Redmond replaced junior college transfer Justin Cox at the position.
"It's great to have my brother back," MSU corner Cedric Jiles said.
Deontay Evans and Kivon Coman both moved up to back up free and strong safeties, respectively. Evans could receive his first career start Saturday as Mullen confirmed the team is handling any discipline stemming from Nickoe Whitley's ejection last week against Kentucky "in house."
"You look out there at the end of the games and I'm like, 'Oh, he's in there,'" MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins said. "We just get them all ready."
Gamecocks QB Shaw battling severe virus
South Carolina starting quarterback Connor Shaw has missed practice this week due to the same virus that sidelined him at the beginning of his team's game Saturday at Missouri. Shaw also suffered from a knee injury
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Shaw missed Monday's practice and was unlikely to work out Tuesday as he recovers from the virus. He is listed as questionable for the game against MSU, but Collins expects Shaw to play.
"He's had sort of a little flu bug," Spurrier said in his media teleconference Sunday. "Maybe a stomach virus. He didn't go to the movie with the team Friday night and didn't come to the breakfast. He actually didn't go to the stadium (with us on an early morning visit). He stayed back. I think he ate a little bit of his pregame meal and he felt pretty good."
Shaw, who was recovering from a sprained knee, entered the game against Missouri in the third quarter and helped South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) rally from a 17-point deficit and earn a 27-24 double-overtime victory.
"It was completely evident the type of player he is watching that game and what he means to that team," Mullen said Monday. "Sometimes they don't make him put up huge numbers. They don't need to. As any great quarterback, I think he manages the game extremely well. People use that in a negative term. I use that as he does what he needs to do for his team to win the game. That to me is a manager and a winner at the quarterback position, and he does that very, very well."
Shaw threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns to earn the SEC's Offensive Player of the Week honors. Spurrier said backup Dylan Thompson would start against MSU (4-3, 1-2) if Shaw can't play.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.