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August 26, 2011

Blog: Keeping Miles at RB is smart move



The idea of nudging running back Kenny Miles over to safety was floated for less than a day until common sense mercifully prevailed.

Now he will remain as the No. 2 or No. 3 ball-carrier, depending on where he's put on the depth chart. He's battling exciting freshman Shon Carson, who has impressed the coaches with his skills so far in prseason camp.

Even Steve Spurrier has publicly stated Carson will definitely get an opportunity to play when the Gamecocks face East Carolina on Sept. 3

But moving Miles to defense - in essence kicking him to the curb - made no sense for two important reasons: 1) Shifting positions a week before the first game is illogical and ill-advised; and 2) Even though Carson has enormous potential and promise, he has yet to prove himself in a game.

Frankly, had the move to safety stuck, Miles was in danger of turning into another Dion LeCorn, who shifted back and forth between wide receiver and defensive back/spur in his final two years and ended up contributing little because of it.

What would have been gained by moving Miles this late? Zero. I understand Ellis Johnson's apprehensions over the lack of depth at both safety spots - and his anxieties might be legitimate - but shifting your most experienced running back to another position before the season had even started would have been impulsive.

It would have taken Miles at least one to two months to learn enough about the safety positions that the coaches would have felt confident enough to insert him into a game.

The best course of action, in my opinion, is to let the season play out and see how Miles fares at running back, as well as Carson and the others. Heck, Brandon Wilds could emerge as the top freshman running back.

By the end of the season, if one or both of the freshmen outplay Miles and the coaches determine that moving him to another position is in his best interests, then so be it. Should that occur, Miles would have a complete spring practice, the summer and preseason camp to learn his new position.

Of course, that assumes Miles would want to stick around. He has said in the past he wants to play running back.

At this point, he would receive very little coaching because Job 1 of the USC coaching staff at this point is to prepare the Gamecocks to face East Carolina on Sept. 3. Position change? Don't bother.

Secondly, it's premature to contend Carson is the definite No. 2 running back behind Marcus Lattimore. Has Carson outperformed Miles in practice? If you read between the lines of what Spurrier has said publicly or believe what sources have said, the answer is yes.

By all accounts, Carson is a very talented young running back. He's fast, confident, tough, hits the hole hard and doesn't hesitate. He shares all the qualities great running backs possess.

But Miles has one big advantage over Carson. He's a proven commodity because he's performed well in games, including the last game USC has played. Remember, this is the same guy who led USC in rushing in 2009 after he quickly rose from fourth to first on the depth chart within a matter of weeks.

Right now, I think Carson will be a very good running back. If he has a good game against East Carolina and follows with a strong performance at Georgia, then we'll know he's a good running back.

In other words, I want to see Carson perform in a real game first before jumping to conclusions and saying he is the real deal. Right now, based on his practice performances, all he possesses is just promise and potential.

I'll start believing Carson will be a good player around 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 3 if he runs the ball against East Carolina the same way he has done it in practice for the last three weeks. That's always the key for young players, transitioning from the practice field to the stadium on Saturdays.

But the bigger test will come the following weekend at Georgia. If Carson excels against a SEC defense, then we'll know he's special just like we knew Lattimore was indeed extraordinary when he had the monster game in the 2010 Week 2 win over Georgia.

Is Carson another Lattimore? That will be tough. And unfair. Right now, between Lattimore, Miles and Carson, the Gamecocks have solid depth at the running back position.

If Miles ends up third, he would be the leader in the clubhouse for the title of best No. 3 running back in the SEC.

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