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What to Watch for in Spring Football: Mike Davis vs. Brandon Wilds at RB

Streeter Lecka

RB coach Everette Sands would prefer to have a solid starter emerge out of his troop of backs. As of right now, the primary contenders for that job are sophomore Mike Davis and RS sophomore Brandon Wilds. Kendric Salley, Shon Carson, and David Williams will also be available, but I expect that Salley won't see a lot of time unless injuries force us down the depth chart and that either Carson or Williams will be used primarily as change-of-pace, home-run back, that is, again, unless injuries dictate otherwise. Davis and Wilds are the only two out of the group who have gotten extensive playing time thus far, and they'll get the lion's share of opportunities in the spring.

What will Sands and Steve Spurrier be looking at between Davis and Wilds? Expect a focus on which back is best at the "little things." Both Wilds and Davis have shown that they can gain yardage on the ground, Wilds over the course of a few starts late in 2011 and Davis in his backup role late in 2012. Wilds, believe it or not, gained nearly 500 yards rushing in 2011, while Davis gained 275. Wilds also proved to be a dangerous receiver in 2011. However, Wilds lost his starting spot late in 2011, and Davis never quite broke through to being the featured back in 2012. Why? It would seem that, in both cases, the problem was that Kenny Miles proved a more reliable blocker; Miles also, after struggling to catch the ball out of the backfield early in his career, proved much more reliable in that capacity than Davis in 2012. One of the things people often forget about Marcus Lattimore was what an excellent blocker he was--he was very reliable against the blitz and could oftentimes be seen laying a nice block down field when the opportunity presented itself. While lacking Lattimore's physical advantages, Kenny Miles also worked hard on his blocking and was more than serviceable in this regard. While it might be foolish to believe that either Wilds or Davis can be as good as Lattimore was, what the coaches want is a player who is the complete back, much like Lattimore and Miles were.

Which one will it be? My guess right now would be Wilds. First of all, Wilds has already proven that he is a good receiver out of the backfield, which Davis has yet to do. Wilds has also reportedly really trimmed up physically and is literally bigger, faster, and stronger than he ever was. He has the look of a prototypical All-SEC back. One of the knocks on him was always that while he showed great vision and tackle-breaking abilities, he didn't have elite speed or explosiveness. If he's developed those qualities, he could be ready to take his game to the next level, particularly if he's also picked up the blocking schemes. Frankly, I'm very excited to see the new-and-improved Wilds. That said, Davis is also a heralded, talented back, one who always had the speed and burst that Wilds seems to have gained. If Davis has improved his blocking and receiving skills, he should be right there with Wilds.