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South Carolina Gamecocks football 2014 roster preview: No. 22, Brandon Wilds

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RS junior tailback provides proven backup.

Brandon Wilds
RS junior tailback
6'2'' / 222 lbs
Blythewood, S.C.

Recruitment:
Wilds was a consensus three-star prospect and the fifth-ranked fullback in the 2011 class.

Wilds is considered one of the more notable steals the Gamecocks have signed in recent years. Considered a two-star prospect by some services and with his only other major offers coming from Illinois and Maryland, Wilds was not expected to have the success he's had with the Gamecocks. Recruiting commentators have blamed his inability to show his true skills due to running behind a mediocre high-school offensive line for the poor evaluation.

College career:
The story of Wilds's improbably 2011 season is well-known among Carolina fans. Although as said not considered a strong prospect, Wilds immediately earned the coaches' praise in fall camp in 2011 for both his running ability and skill in catching the ball out of the backfield. As part of a crowded group of backs, he began the season fifth on the depth chart, but after early injuries to Shon Carson, Kenny Miles, and Eric Baker, Wilds made it onto the field as early as the Vandy game, the fourth of the season. When Marcus Lattimore went down for the season with a torn ACL a few weeks later, Wilds was tabbed as the starting back for the Gamecocks' trip to Tennessee. With Lattimore out and a young Connor Shaw under center, Carolina fans were nervous, but Wilds responded with a 100+-yard game en route to a win over the Big Orange. Wilds would have another huge game against Florida a few weeks later, again rushing for over 100 yards. Wilds lost playing time to Miles as the Gamecocks finished out the season with wins over Clemson and Nebraska, but Wilds's success in filling in for Lattimore in close victories over Tennessee and Florida played a huge role in our first eleven-win season.

Wilds sat out in 2012 due to a high-ankle sprain, but he made the most of his time by working hard in the weight room. Stronger and faster, Wilds played a key role in the 2013 season, although not quite what was expected because he missed several mid-season games due to injury. When healthy, he proved capable of backing up star Mike Davis without too much of a drop-off.

2014 outlook:
Wilds enters 2014 expected to again provide a capable backup to Mike Davis. While Wilds does good work with his vision, cutting instincts, ability to break tackles, and reliability in the passing game, he lacks the agility and breakaway speed that make Davis an elite back. He's thus unlikely to win the starting job. He'll also have to fend off up-and-coming back David Williams for the second-team spot, as well as stay healthy. Still, Wilds is a very respectable SEC back, and it's comforting to know that we've got a guy like him available at a position where backups are so essential. Expect him to get his fare share of snaps this season and to help keep the chains moving.

Trivia:
Earlier this summer, we honored Wilds for this really awesome catch against Clemson: