We’re back with another breakdown of the 2018 Gamecocks, and today we’re going to take a look at the tailbacks. Now, this is a position I am very intrigued by, and I am very interested to see how this group does this season. Traditionally, the best teams in SEC run the ball very effectively. When Carolina went on the run it did under Steve Spurrier, it was in large part due to the running game of legends Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw.
Since the Will Muschamp era began in Columbia, it has been running back by committee and I honestly don’t see that changing this year. I expect A.J. Turner to bethe starter against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 1 when the Chanticleers come to town. He led the team with 531 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. He didn’t start in the Outback Bowl due to missing a little time with a high ankle sprain. Turner is also the 43rd player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in his career.
Unfortunately, Rico Dowdle knows all about injuries. He was the starter Day One in 2017, but suffered a broken leg midway through the season against Tennessee. We all know what he is capable of, though: He came back in time for the Outback Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines and gave the spark that the Gamecocks needed, rushing the ball six times for 45 yards and 1 touchdown. I could see Dowdle starting and having a very good year; it all depends on that leg and the beating it will take.
Ty’Son Williams seemed to get more and more of the ball near the end of the season. He got the start against Michigan and led the team in rushing against Clemson. The North Carolina transfer has impressed since moving a little south of Chapel Hill. The year he had to sit out, he earned a share of the Offensive Scout Team Award, which shows you why the staff like this guy. He is hard nosed and does not shy away from contact. He was second on the team in rushing with 471 yards and 1 touchdown.
For the Gamecocks to win games — and I mean games against Georgia, Clemson, and Texas A&M — the running game will have be able to dig Jake Bentley and the offensive line out of some holes. In the big time games, you have to be balanced, which was evident in the Clemson game, when the Gamecocks couldn’t run the ball and keep the Tigers’ offense off the field. A lot of that has to do with getting push in the trenches, and Carolina is getting better in that department.
Caleb Kinlaw is a guy I want to see more. The Wisconsin Badgers transfer played on special teams mainly last year, but has explosive ability. Mon Denson seems poised to get some action as well. The 5-foot-10 redshirt junior is good in short-yardage plays and has shown he can carry the load. In the Gamecocks’ win against the Florida Gators, he led the team with 61 yards and grabbed his first two touchdowns as a Gamecock. He did not participate in the spring due to knee surgery, so we will see how is at fall practice.
With all that being said, the Gamecocks are very deep and talented at the running back position, which looks to be instrumental for the Gamecocks if they truly want to compete for the SEC. The key is keeping everyone healthy, so in the fourth quarter the depth is there to step on opponent’s throat.