COLUMBIA — Every time wide receiver Bruce Ellington catches a pass or runs with the football, the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium immediately starts to chant:
“Bruuuce, Bruuuce, Bruuuce.”
To the untrained ear, it almost sounds like Gamecocks fans are booing the former Berkeley High School star. But for Ellington, it’s music to his soul.
“Every time the fans do it, I love it,” Ellington said with a wide grin. “It’s the greatest sound in the world to me. I can’t get enough of it.”
Chances are Ellington will be hearing his name a lot more often from South Carolina fans. The loss of All-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore to a season-ending knee injury last Saturday means that Ellington’s role with the Gamecocks’ offense will only increase over the final five games of the season.
USC’s Bruce Ellington likely to see more touches
It’s a position that the two-sport star embraces.
“I’m just going to do whatever the coaches want me to do,” said Ellington, who is the starting point guard on the Gamecocks basketball team. “If that means playing quarterback or wide receiver or running back, I’ll do it. It doesn’t matter to me.”
South Carolina fans got a preview of Ellington’s true potential at Mississippi State. Against the Bulldogs, Ellington caught four passes for 32 yards, and was used in the wildcat formation, where he rushed four times for 25 yards and completed 2 of 3 passes for 24 yards. He also returned one kickoff for 17 yards.
On the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, Ellington returned the kickoff 17 yards, rushed twice out of the wildcat for 14 yards, completed a pass for eight more and caught a pass for eight yards.
He was named the SEC
co-freshman of the week for his performance. Ellington, who was the freshman of the week in basketball in January, is the first SEC athlete to be named player of the week in both sports.
“Bruce has the ability to make a big play here and there for us,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s a versatile guy. He can do a lot of different things for us.”
Ellington might have to dig a little deeper into the playbook for the next two weeks. With Lattimore out of the lineup, there’s a chance he could line up at running back.
It’s a family tradition for Ellington, whose cousin is Clemson running back Andre Ellington. If called upon to play running back, Bruce Ellington is ready.
“I don’t feel like there’s a difference between being a tailback and a wildcat quarterback,” Ellington said. “You still have to read the offensive line and what blocks they make, so I don’t think there’s a big difference, and I would feel comfortable back there.”
Bruce said he and Andre talk every week and exchanged texts on game day. It’s a ritual they started back in high school.
“I wish him well and he does the same to me,” Bruce said. “We do it before every game.”
Spurrier said Ellington will become a bigger part of the Gamecocks’ offense, especially in the running game. But chances are that will come more out of the wildcat formation than as a true running back.
“Bruce is ready to go,” Spurrier said. “We’ll use him a bit more back there running with it. He’s a natural runner with the ball. He could play some tailback, but I think we’ll leave him mainly at wide receiver and use him at shotgun.”
Spurrier has no doubt that Ellington has the ability to play running back. But there’s more to being a tailback than just running with the football.
“It is more involved than just sticking him back there right now,” Spurrier said. “He’s not going to be a running back per se. We won’t ask him to pick up the blitzing linebackers and such, which is what running backs do nowadays. He’ll be in there in the wildcat. As we know, he can throw it, so we’ll have some passes for him; more than last week. We’re going to let him go.”
It’s the kind of role that
Ellington envisioned when he walked onto the Gamecocks practice field last summer.
“The more touches I get, the better I think I play,” Ellington said.