'Best yet to come' for USC's Davis

South Carolina running back Mike Davis (28) hopes an easy spring leads to another big season this fall. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Whatever sweat Mike Davis worked up had long evaporated by the time he plopped in a chair to chat with the media after South Carolina's spring game.

His white skull cap and Gamecocks T-shirt were dry. His shoulder pads were long removed. There wasn't much reason for a trainer to wash them, not with two first-quarter carries and the rest of the afternoon standing on the sideline.

It was an easy spring for the most talented player on South Carolina's football roster. Davis summarized his offseason with one startling word.

"Relaxing," he said.

The real work happened away from the field. In the hallway underneath Williams-Brice Stadium, following the Gamecocks' spring game April 12, the junior tailback waited outside the media room with senior quarterback Dylan Thompson. They passed time talking about different defenses, what to do against certain formations.

Davis can regurgitate the information like a veteran. It's a sign of how far he's come in a short time. A year ago, he wasn't a household name. Davis was interlocked in one of the fiercest positional battles on the team, trying to earn the right to follow legendary running back Marcus Lattimore.

Now, Davis is a star. Nobody doubts it. No reason for extra reps in the spring when a heavy workload is coming this fall.

"Mentally, studying film, looking at the things I can do better," Davis said of his offseason goals. "Basically, reading defenses, knowing what's going to come. . Seeing the things that I was (seeing) last year, being able to just recognize it more easily."

By the time South Carolina opened spring practice, Davis was healthy after injuring his ankle at the Capital One Bowl in January. Instead of taking a physical beating, he put his focus and energy into "mental reps," continuing to learn the game.

He hopes it helps him build off a breakout sophomore year. Davis led the SEC in rushing at the season's halfway mark, before multiple injuries limited his production in November. Still, his 1,183 rushing yards were just 16 fewer than Lattimore's career high with the Gamecocks, exceeding almost everyone's expectations.

That doesn't mean Spurrier will stop prodding his star, urging him to improve. Asked what Davis needs to do better this fall, the Head Ball Coach didn't hesitate.

"Not fumbling!" Surrier said, bold and brash like always. "Oh, you're not supposed to say that, are you?"

He paused.

"Ball security! That's what he needs to concentrate on. We lost that one at UCF. We lost one at Missouri on the 2-yard line. Somehow or another, we came back and won those game, but that's going to cost you one. If you keep fumbling on the 2-yard line, you're going to come out a loser someday. We escaped those, but Mike knows that. He knows that. He's a very good runner, powerful runner. Just a little extra ball security."

Davis, who lost all three of his fumbles last season, was relayed Spurrier's critique. He smiled, knowingly.

"The game he looks at the most, I would say, is the Central Florida game where I fumbled it on the 1-yard line, and I could've had a record four touchdowns," Davis said. "He never lets that go."

Davis said he had no fumbles this spring, not that there were many opportunities to carry the football. If he stays healthy and corrects the only blemish in his game, there's no telling what heights next season could lift him. Davis certainly seems to think so.

On Sunday, he sent out a tweet foreshadowing what may be ahead.

"The best is yet to come."