Gamecocks’ three-back attack: Davis will start at tailback; Wilds, Carson will see plenty of action
COLUMBIA — The Mike Davis era has officially begun at South Carolina.
Height: 5-9 Weight: 215
Rushing – 52 attempts, 275 yards, 2 TDs
Receiving – 4 receptions, 35 yards, 0 TDs
Davis, a sophomore, will start at running back in the Gamecocks’ season opener against North Carolina on Aug. 29.
While Davis was widely considered to be the heir apparent to the departed Marcus Lattimore, USC running back coach Everette Sands made it official Tuesday morning after practice.
Davis had been in a heated battled with redshirt sophomore Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson since the start of camp. But a strong performance in the Gamecocks’ scrimmage Saturday was enough to convince Sands.
“Mike is going to be the starter,” Sands said. “Mike just made a few more plays in scrimmage situations than Brandon and Shon. His pass protection was good and he’s had a very good camp.”
Davis understands that replacing a legend like Lattimore won’t be easy. In less than three seasons, Lattimore rushed for more than 2,600 yards and scored a school- record 41 touchdowns. But Lattimore was also injury-prone and missed 10 games over his final two seasons.
“One player is not going to replace a guy like Marcus,” Davis said earlier in preseason camp. “I came here to be the starter, that’s my goal. It’s what I’ve been working for since the first day I got here. I just want to the best Mike Davis I can be, and hopefully that’s good enough.”
So far, it’s been just fine.
A year ago as a true freshman, Davis played in 12 games, rushing for 275 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
“Mike’s a good running back,” said USC head coach Steve Spurrier. “He can run between the tackles, and he’s got good enough speed to get a long one.”
With the injuries to Lattimore in the past two seasons, Sands is acutely aware that he’ll need all three running backs this season. All are expected to play against the Tar Heels.
“I’ve got confidence in all three of them,” Sands said. “In this league, as physical as the SEC is, it’s going to take more than one running back to get through an entire season.”
Wilds, who missed the entire 2012 season with a high ankle sprain, began his career as the Gamecocks’ fifth-string running back in 2011. Wilds quickly moved up the depth chart, and when Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury against Mississippi State, the former Blythewood High School star started against Tennessee. He rushed for 486 yards as a true freshman and recorded 100-yard games against the Volunteers (137), Florida (120) and The Citadel (109).
“Brandon is going to get his carries,” Sands said. “He’s proven he can play an effective running back in this league.”
Carson, a redshirt sophomore, has suffered through two season-ending injuries already during his career. He tore his ACL as a freshman and last year missed all but the Gamecocks’ bowl game because of a wrist injury.
“Shon has done a lot of good things during camp,” Sands said. “I’ve got confidence in all three guys that they can get the job done.”
Sands isn’t sure how he’ll divide playing time between the backs.
“The rotation won’t be set in stone,” Sands said. “It’s going to be more of a fluid situation. You’re definitely going to see all three early in the game. It’s not going to be one of those situations where we get these guys in during the fourth quarter. You’ll see them all early.”