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NCAA Football South Carolina Gamecocks

Running Back Candidates For South Carolina Gamecocks

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Running Back Candidates For South Carolina Gamecocks

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Jeff Blake - USATODAY Sports

In other conferences it’s the quarterback position, but in the SEC you can’t win without a great player at the running back position. The SEC is a conference that’s played in the trenches, and a team that can’t run the ball is a team that’s going to struggle to win games. Unfortunately for the South Carolina Gamecocks, running back is one of their biggest question marks heading into next season. They are strong at a lot of positions, but right now there is some uncertainty as to who is going to be their starting running back as well as what kind of depth they’ll have at the position.

Following his gruesome knee injury last season, Marcus Lattimore would have likely missed the season anyway, but now that he has declared for the NFL Draft, there is no possibility of Lattimore coming back to lead the South Carolina backfield. The Gamecocks are also losing Kenny Miles, who was integral to South Carolina’s rushing attack after Lattimore’s injury and finished third on the team in rushing last season behind only Lattimore and quarterback Connor Shaw.

Without Lattimore and Miles in the picture this year, South Carolina’s backfield is wide open. There are plenty of candidates, but there’s a lot of youth in that group and little experience, so there is nobody that is close to locking down the starting job for the fall. If the Gamecocks are going to compete in the SEC East in 2013, they’re going to need at least two or three running backs that they can rely on. Let’s take a look at the candidates that will be competing for time at running back for the South Carolina Gamecocks this year:

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Mike Davis, Sophomore

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Jeff Blake - USATODAY Sports

Davis is the Gamecocks' second-leading returning rusher, behind only quarterback Connor Shaw. Outside of Shaw, the 275 yards Davis ran for last year is all South Carolina has coming back in the rushing department, which could make him the favorite to become the starter. He’s probably the most talented runner on the roster, and after gaining some experience last year he may be ready to have a break out season. South Carolina really needs him to do just that as he’s the candidate most likely to become a workhorse for them and somewhat imitate what Marcus Lattimore has done in the past for the Gamecocks.

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Shon Carson, Sophomore

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Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

Carson was the top running back the Gamecocks signed in 2011, but because of injuries he’s been limited to just three carries and two receptions during his first two years in Columbia. He was in line to play as a true freshman in 2011 before tearing his ACL and missed most of last season with a wrist injury. If he’s healthy, Carson should see time as a change-of-pace back, as he’s a smaller back that’s capable of creating big plays as a runner or receiver out of the backfield.

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Kendric Salley, Redshirt Freshman

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Jeremy Brevard - USATODAY Sports

Salley suffered an ACL injury in high school, which forced him to redshirt last season. Now that he’s two years removed from that injury, he should be physically ready to go this season. However, Salley still has to prove that he can handle the mental side of the game, which could put him down the depth chart a bit.

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Jamari Smith, True Freshman

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Jeff Blake - USATODAY Sports

Smith isn’t a likely candidate to step in and play right away as a true freshman, but with such a wide-open competition he should get an opportunity in fall camp to get on the depth chart and earn some carries this season. The Gamecocks would prefer to redshirt him this season, but they’ll play him if he earns a spot on the depth chart or if they have to.

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Brandon Wilds, Sophomore

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Jeff Blake - USATODAY Sports

Wilds rushed for close to 500 yards as a true freshman in 2011 after Marcus Lattimore suffered his first knee injury. However, he had to take an injury redshirt in 2012 after suffering a high-ankle sprain. He’s the most experienced running back the Gamecocks have, but there’s still some uncertainty as to how he’s going to fair after sitting out an entire season. He may not be ready and able to become a star in the SEC, but if Wilds can regain the form he had in 2011, he should be a steady and dependable back for the Gamecocks this year. He possibly turn into something more, but there are no guarantees.

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David Williams, True Freshman

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Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

Williams is a big and strong running back, the kind that excels in the SEC, and the kind that can play right away. He may not be able to make a major impact as a true freshman, but he’s talented enough to force his way onto the field this year and South Carolina may need him to play a significant role.