COLUMBIA — Two season-ending knee injuries last year — to true freshman Shon Carson in the second game and star Marcus Lattimore in the seventh — left South Carolina scrambling to find a reliable running back.

Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles ended up sharing duties in the final six games, during which Wilds had 94 carries for 411 yards and Miles had 53 for 203.

Now, the Gamecocks’ backfield is crowded. Lattimore, a junior, is clearly the primary option. Beyond that, the redshirt freshman Carson, sophomore Wilds and fifth-year senior Miles are competing for carries.

Carson and Miles are small, quick backs. Wilds envisions himself as the power option, as does running backs coach Everette Sands, because Wilds is listed at 6-2 and 218 pounds — two inches taller and the same weight as Lattimore.

Today’s first preseason scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium, which will happen during the second half of the 3:45 p.m. practice, will give Sands his first game-speed glimpse of his options beyond Lattimore.

Wilds said he envisions his niche being “red zone area, short down and distance, third and 3.” Carson claims as his strengths: “I bring a lot of speed to the backfield, a game-changing pace. I can catch the ball out of the backfield whenever they need me to.”

While Carson rehabbed his knee last year with Lattimore, Carson said they talked about “how we can be a one-two punch when we come back.” Lattimore and Carson didn’t participate in spring practices, so “I haven’t seen Shon a lot in action,” said Sands.

“I’m waiting to see all of our guys just run through contact more,” he said. “When it’s non-tackling (in practice), you’re not going to do it as much, so I’m looking forward to seeing that (in the scrimmage).”

An interesting question for USC: Where does 5-9, 216-pound true freshman Mike Davis fit in? He is the highest-rated member of the freshman class, No. 63 overall by Rivals. Sands will get a look at him today.

“One of the big things that Mike’s got to do, of course, is just continue to learn the system, and then blocking,” Sands said, echoing the comments of most running backs coaches about true freshmen most years. “That’s a big thing he’s got to do a much better job of, doing the things when the ball is not in his hands.

“The older four guys are going to (at least) be on special teams and are going to play,” Sands said. “The biggest thing is, is Mike going to come along and be ready to contribute?”

Adams impressing early

USC coach Steve Spurrier has raved about true freshman tight end Jerell Adams this preseason. Adams spent a postgraduate season at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia in 2011 to improve his grades. He certainly looks ready to contribute this fall. He is 6-6 and 224 pounds. Where he fits in a position group that also includes Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, returning contributors both, remains to be seen.

Adams played tight end at Fork Union — the position he played as a freshman and sophomore at Scott’s Branch High in Summerton, before playing quarterback and outside linebacker as a junior and senior.

“I got to work on my (tight end) technique a lot there (at Fork Union),” Adams said. “I feel like I’m physically ready. I felt like I got a lot stronger when I went up there. They had a good strength coach up there, so he helped me out a whole lot.”

Sanders to transfer

Reserve third-year sophomore cornerback Cadarious Sanders will transfer, USC announced Friday. He played in eight games last season and had four tackles.

He was listed as the backup to Victor Hampton entering August, but with Akeem Auguste sidelined recently with a groin injury, Auguste’s reps have gone to Jimmy Legree and Ahmad Christian, who were listed behind Auguste at the other cornerback spot. Legree and Christian now figure to be the second-stringers.