COLUMBIA - David Williams struggled getting comfortable as he stretched on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium, preparing for South Carolina's spring game.
It had been more than a year since the redshirt freshman tailback carried the football in a game. The Gamecocks' annual spring scrimmage wasn't quite the same, but it was more than the scout team reps he'd received last fall.
Here was Williams' chance to show his coaches what he could do on the field. It would be enough reason to give Williams the jitters, but there was more. After missing more than a week of practices because of a strained hamstring, an important spring was down to one final opportunity last Saturday afternoon.
Williams tried to get his body loose on the field before kickoff. Easing his mind was a bigger challenge.
"I didn't know what to expect when I came out here," Williams said. "I was thinking about my hamstring the whole time before it started."
With starters saving their heavy workload until the fall, Williams was able to shine. He carried the ball seven times for 35 yards, including two touchdowns. It was the kind of performance that gave glimpses of what the youngster from Philadelphia could do in the future, perhaps even this year.
Nobody doubts Williams' raw talent. He's next in line to succeed junior Mike Davis as the workhorse in South Carolina's backfield, whenever that opportunity opens. Even Davis has been impressed with the youngster, taking him under his wing and sharing praise and advice alike.
"Everybody is impressive in their own way, but I don't know if you guys look at David Williams," Davis said after a practice earlier this month. "He's big, fast, strong."
At 6-1, 210 pounds, Williams looks like an outside linebacker. It would be easy to mistake him for one, except he constantly finishes among the leaders during wind sprints.
All the physical skills are there for Williams to be a big-time player in the SEC. His goal this offseason is to learn how to play the game at this level. For that, he appreciates the advice Davis shares.
"He just told me, 'Be more patient,'" Williams said. "Because when I first got here, I used to be (too) fast. He just said, 'Be confident.' Because I used to be second-guessing myself when I be out there. Thanks to the redshirt year, I've been able to get into the playbook, understand and just be confident when I'm going out there running plays."
Williams said the redshirt year was crucial for his growth as a player. It was all setting up for him to have a big spring, until his injury.
A Clemson Tiger logo has shown up again on the football field inside South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium.
Someone spray-painted an orange tiger paw on the field near the South end zone. Last April, vandals spray-painted the paw on the football field and painted "go Tigers" on one of the Cockabooses outside the stadium. Campus police are investigating the incident, which occurred within the last day, according to USC sports information director Steve Fink.