COLUMBIA — He touched the ball six times and scored three touchdowns.
After that kind of performance, is Kevin Harris the next great hope of South Carolina’s running backs?
“Kevin’s got really good balance. He’s got a much bigger lower body and he’s a hard guy to tackle,” coach Will Muschamp said after Harris collected 147 yards in Saturday’s 72-10 demolition of Charleston Southern. “There’s no soft area when you tackle him.”
Muschamp paused. “Yeah, he’s a good one,” he said, nearly to himself.
He is, but how good he can be at USC may not be known until next year. Harris was magnificent Saturday, but he got most of his touches in the fourth quarter against a Charleston Southern defense that had already been on the field for most of 775 USC offensive yards.
It was “most” because Harris gained the final 75 on the Gamecocks’ final play. He broke three tackles and barely acknowledged any Buccaneer defenders trying to knock him off-balance.
“Obviously, a very powerful guy,” fellow running back Rico Dowdle said. “(He’s a) 600-pound squatter. You can obviously see that when he runs the ball. He’s very strong, broke a lot of tackles.”
The Gamecocks (1-1) played the kind of ball Muschamp always wants to play, by running the ball and stopping the run. USC held CSU to 72 yards on the ground.
USC rushed for 493, breaking a school record that had stood since 1937. Harris was the last guy on the depth chart but first in the individual rushing totals.
So should he get more looks going forward? The first carry of his career went for 7 yards on fourth-and-1, which at least led to a burning question — could he have done that last week against North Carolina, when Muschamp instead chose to punt and his defense gave up a game-losing drive?
It’s a strong maybe. Like almost everything from Saturday’s game, the Gamecocks are taking what they gained and liberally sprinkling it with the salt cellar. It was Charleston Southern.
Harris has three games to play (any three of the remaining 10) before a redshirt choice has to be determined. He may play more if Dowdle, Tavien Feaster and Mon Denson aren’t producing.
But right now, the situation seems to beckon Harris toward only playing if he has to/has a chance to in runaway games, and saving the full freshman year for next season. Dowdle, Feaster and Denson are all seniors and Harris could start next season.
“He had a really good day, he ran through contact extremely well, faced the same defense the other guys did,” Muschamp said. “We’re excited about Kevin’s future, just continuing to progress him.”
That may mean a few carries going forward, but most likely the Gamecocks counting on Harris for many carries next season.
Mizzou time set
The Gamecocks will kick off at 4 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Missouri. The game will be carried by SEC Network or the SEC Alternate Network.