March 17, 2008

Spring Preview: Davis, Maddox Top RB's

Whoever becomes South Carolina's top running back next season has large shoes to fill.

Cory Boyd accounted for over 47 percent (180 of 382) of South Carolina's carries last season, a percentage that grew as the season went along, and finished with a career high 903 rushing yards, 66.2 percent of USC's total.

Now running backs coach Robert Gillespie must find a replacement for one of USC's most popular players. The process will begin Wednesday when spring practice starts.

Senior Mike Davis, who had 518 rushing yards in 2007, looks to be the apparent successor, but he'll have to outperform a number of young backs eager to take his spot.

We know one thing at this point: those young backs should get at least one chance to show their wares. Davis must sit out one game this season for academic reasons arising from excessive class absences last semester.

Spurrier said recently Davis will likely miss the Sept. 27 UAB game.

Based on his experience, Davis should be considered the odds-on favorite to regain the role he held in 2005 as a true freshman while Boyd sat out the season.

So far, Gillespie is pleased with how Davis is approaching his final season of college football.

"I'm looking forward to Mike having a big spring," Gillespie said. "He's done well in winter conditioning. He's been a leader by example and he's doing all the right things now. I think he's ready to step up and be the senior leader in the backfield."

Davis enters the 2008 season with 1,658 career yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons. He's averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 46.1 yards per game.

"He has to be consistent and fight off some of the adversity any running back is going to face," Gillespie said. "You're going to make some decisions and make some bad runs. But you have to bounce back. Mentally, we're going to do some things to make him tougher and prepare him to be the guy over the long haul of a season."

Boyd caught 36 passes out of the backfield last season, 117 in his career. Davis has 49 receptions in his first three seasons. Gillespie is striving to make the former Columbia High star a more versatile back.

"We want Mike to do all things coming out of the backfield that we're starting do in the offense," Gillespie said.

Who's most likely to challenge Davis for the starting job? Start with sophomore Brian Maddox, who was the third string running back behind Boyd and Davis last season.

Maddox, who rushed for 1,750 yards as a senior at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C. in 2006, had six carries for 20 yards last season in limited duty. Four of the six runs came in the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. He saw most of his action on special teams.

"I wish we could have gotten him some more reps last year," Gillespie said. "But the games didn't dictate it. But this spring is a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet and knock off some of the rust and become a college running back."

If Maddox continues to improve his knowledge of the offense, he'll see more carries this fall, Gillespie said.

"Everybody knows he was real good in high school. He just has to make the move this spring where he understands the game and moves at the tempo the game flows at," Gillespie said. "He's going to do well. He's a big guy, he's strong and he catches the ball well. He's going to help us in a lot of areas. I'm looking forward to him competing with Mike."

Eric Baker signed with USC in February of 2007 and spent last fall at Fork Union Military Academy in Chatham, Va. in order to help him obtain the necessary test scores to qualify under NCAA rules.

He enrolled at USC in January and will have the opportunity to catch Gillespie's eye this spring.

Baker led the State of Florida in rushing with 1,703 yards during his senior season in 2006 at Edward White High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

The young backs will have to fight off a pair of redshirt juniors in Bobby Wallace and Taylor Rank, neither of whom has made much of an impact the last two seasons.

Wallace suffered a broken collarbone during fall camp last year and didn't play at all. He was redshirted, while Rank had just two carries for five yards.

Wallace had 41 carries for 135 yards as a true freshman in 2005, but has just five carries since then. One of those was an 88-yard scamper for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee State late in the 2006 season.

If Wallace regains the form he showed against Clemson in 2005 when he had 51 yards on six carries, he'll be in the mix. Rank has a 100-yard game to his credit (101 yards against Florida Atlantic in 2006), but few carries since. He's played mostly on special teams.

Kenny Miles, a record setting running back from Lawrenceville, Ga. will join the program in July for the start of summer conditioning.

Miles piled up impressive numbers at Brookwood High School, rushing for over 2,400 yards to gain first-team all-state honors in the Peach State.

Eric Baker
Mike Davis**
Brian Maddox
Taylor Rank
Bobby Wallace

** Suspended For 1 Game In 2008 Season

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