South Carolina's top 10 important players: No. 2, Mike Davis

South Carolina running back Mike Davis did enough last season to deserve preseason Heisman Trophy hype this summer.

To help get you through college football's slow days of early July - before conference media days launch the preseason festivities - we've counted down the 10 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 10 most important Clemson Tigers for 2014. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.


The concerns were legitimate. Marcus Lattimore was gone, leaving his final year at South Carolina on the table to enter the NFL early. His departure left a crater-sized hole in the Gamecocks backfield.

It was more than the yards and carries and touchdowns. Lattimore gave South Carolina's offense an identity. No matter what, the Gamecocks always felt they had the best player on the field, a true superstar who would run over, around, through and past defenders. Whatever it took.

A void like that wasn't supposed to be filled so fast. Mike Davis had other thoughts.

Davis' breakout sophomore season didn't quite come from nowhere. He was a four-star prospect out of Atlanta powerhouse Stephenson High. Most expected Davis to be a good player. Few could have thought he'd be quite that good.

It started in the first game last season. Davis' 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against North Carolina showed everyone what was to come. He blew out of the gates last fall, establishing himself as a star before September became October.

His final stats speak for themselves. Davis rushed for 1,183 yards, 11 touchdowns and earned second team All-SEC honors. Consider, though, the level Davis played at before injuries slowed him in the season's final month and bowl game.

Now, the roles are reversed. Davis is no longer the promising up-and-comer, dripping with unexpected potential. He'll catch nobody in the SEC by surprise this season. His challenge isn't so much to duplicate or exceed what he accomplished last season. No, Davis must do that while every defensive game plan centers on stopping him.

It's the kind of task a healthy Lattimore conquered.