As if having Marcus Lattimore wasn't enough, the South Carolina Gamecocks will go into this season with what could be the deepest backfield not only in the SEC, but in the country.
Kenny Miles has decided to return for his senior year, and the Gamecocks also managed to recruit the sixth-best running back in this year's class in Mike Davis.
Not only are the Gamecocks getting new legs, but they will be getting healthier legs from Shon Carson, who was regarded as the second-best running back on the team going into the season.
Brandon Wilds also proved that he could be a force for the Gamecocks and carry the load when Lattimore needs a breather.
Oh, and then they have Connor Shaw. Yes, he's a quarterback, but if teams give him a lane, he can easily take it the distance. He's one of the fastest quarterbacks in the country and is a great complement to South Carolina's offense.
With Alshon Jeffery leaving for the NFL and no other receiver that has shined, the Gamecocks will have to rely more heavily on the running game. They have some quality recruits coming in at receiver including the fifth-best receiver in the class in Shaq Roland, but neither of them are proven and will need time to adjust to the speed of the game and the physicality of SEC defense's.
The Gamecock's running back depth chart could as follows when the season begins on August 30th:
1.) Marcus Lattimore: Junior
There's nothing to really discuss here. Lattimore is the best running back in the country when healthy and will have a lot to do with the season the Gamecock's have this year. Last year, he was leading the SEC in rushing before going down with a knee injury against Mississippi State that kept him out the whole year.
Lattimore has said that he will be stronger and faster next season and his knee won't be a problem. A stronger and faster Marcus Lattimore? I wouldn't want to be playing linebacker for any team facing South Carolina.
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2.) Shon Carson: Sophomore
Carson was a key recruit for the Gamecocks and was supposed to back up Lattimore all of last season. However, his season was also cut short due to a knee injury but is expected to return at full strength next year.
His running style compares to that of Marcus Lattimore's and is great at catching the ball out of the backfield. Expect him to be the main guy when Lattimore is taking a breather.
3.) Kenny Miles: Senior
Miles filled in admirably for Marcus Lattimore and was an integral part to the Gamecock's strong finish. He had a great game against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl which might have convinced him to come back for his last season as it had been speculated that he wouldn't come back after this year. Miles is a smaller back compared to Lattimore and Carson and is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield. He will be a nice change of pace back to complement Lattimore and Carson.
4.) Brandon Wilds: Sophomore
Wilds basically came out of nowhere last season to help fill the void left by Marcus Lattimore. He wasn't highly recruited out of high school and nearly redshirted before the season began. He was able to move his way up the depth chart and a couple of injuries helped him get on the field to prove what he can do. He is also a big back that has the ability to break tackles and has deceptive speed. He will compete with Miles for the third spot on the depth chart and might give Carson a run for his money.
5.) Mike Davis: Freshman
One of the Gamecock's prized recruits this year, Mike Davis has the ability to be a top running back in the SEC. He fits the mold of the other running backs in the roster as he is also a bruising back that has the ability to break tackles and has one of the best spin moves I have ever seen. He will have a lot of work to do to beat the running backs ahead of him for playing time and might redshirt this season.
With the upcoming NFL combine, draft-eligible players are preparing themselves mentally and physically to put on a strong showing for the 32 NFL teams that will be in attendance. The South Carolina Gamecocks are filling six of more than 300 vacancies in the combine, one less than they had at last year's combine.
The list for the Gamecocks this year includes three potential first-round picks and other high-quality players for the later rounds: Alshon Jeffery, Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore, Antonio Allen, Rokevious Watkins and Travian Robertson.
Jeffery and Ingram are some of the best prospects at their respected positions and will definitely be drafted in day one of the draft. They are two of the most gifted athletes in this year's draft and they have the opportunity to break some records at this year's combine. The vertical jump for a wide receiver might be in danger when Jeffery steps up for his jump. Also, the 40-yard dash for a defensive lineman might be at risk when Ingram gets set to run.
Gilmore is a curious case since some draft analysts have him going in the middle-to-late first round while others have him going as low as the third round. He is the most physical of the top corners in this year's draft and would be able to contribute in special teams right away. He had some trouble with man coverage this year, but his potential is such that he would be hard to pass up for any team needing secondary help.
Allen has been climbing his way up the draft board with the strong season he put up this year for the Gamecocks as well as his strong showing in the Senior Bowl. This is a weak class of safeties and Allen could surely benefit. He can play either safety spot but many have him being drafted as a strong safety. With a strong performance in the combine, he can solidify himself as a late second-round pick or an early third-round pick.
Watkins is as big a tackle, as you will see. They guy looks unearthly when you stand next to him. Watkins did an excellent job in his stint with the Gamecocks as he played every position in the offensive line except center, and he did it extremely well. He is projected to play at the right tackle position at the next level and will need a good combine to move up the draft boards.
Robertson is one of those guys that is on the verge of being drafted in the sixth or seventh round or going undrafted. He was an integral part of the Gamecocks' historic season and will most likely be given a chance to play in the NFL. Some doubt his talents because he was part of a stacked defensive line, but no one questions his effort and the impact he had for the South Carolina defense. With a strong showing at the combine, he might get himself drafted in the later rounds.