Turner (copy) (copy)

A.J. Turner will enter another season third on the depth chart but doesn't plan to stay there. Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

COLUMBIA — A list of most important South Carolina players for 2018 and the only running back on it isn’t Rico Dowdle?

What’s up with that?

Nothing against Dowdle, the Gamecocks’ most talented and dynamic back, but he’s had three major injuries in two seasons. They’ve cost him nine of 26 games. There’s certainly no reason to think he won’t have something occur this year.

Which is when A.J. Turner, as he always does, steps in.

Last year it was taking over for Dowdle when he broke his leg at Tennessee, costing him the final five games of the regular season (he returned for the Outback Bowl and ignited a sputtering USC offense). With just 60 yards on 20 carries previously, Turner blasted through gaps for 471 yards on 78 carries (over 6 yards per tote!) He also caught 18 passes and returned 11 kicks.

He’ll go into the year third on the depth chart, as usual, since the hulking Ty’Son Williams needs to be taken into account. Williams and Dowdle are expected to be the top two backs for the season-opener.

They were last year, too. Dowdle got hurt and Williams was an afterthought in the final half of the year.

Somebody had to take over, to give the Gamecocks the desired balance on offense, to take pressure off the passing game and keep the clock (and the sticks) moving.

That was Turner, filling in for Dowdle at Tennessee with 86 yards and a touchdown, then posting 121 yards on a scant 15 carries with a score against Vanderbilt. Not the biggest, strongest or most talented, he’s always been the most dependable.

South Carolina’s Top 10 Most Important Players

10. CB Rashad Fenton

9. PK Parker White/Shane Hynes

8. S Jamyest Williams

7. WR Bryan Edwards

6. DE D.J. Wonnum

5. LG Zack Bailey

4. RB A.J. Turner

3. Coming Friday

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.