South Carolina began spring practice on Tuesday, and with it came the official start of the fight to replace Marcus Lattimore as the No. 1 running back in Columbia.
Sure, Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis have each played well when given the opportunity over the last two seasons, but it's different now. They're not being counted on to come out of the bullpen—one has to become the ace.
Whoever emerges as the feature running back at South Carolina, the position will be in good hands.
Davis rushed for 275 yards and two touchdowns last season, serving primarily as Kenny Miles' backup after Lattimore went down. The 5'9", 215-pound sophomore has the build to take the punishment between the tackles and the speed to be dangerous in space.
Wilds missed last season with an ankle injury, but was an absolute stud in Lattimore's stead in 2011. The 6'2", 218-pounder rushed for 486 yards and three touchdowns, topping the 100-yard mark three times after Lattimore's injury.
Head coach Steve Spurrier commented on his running back situation following the Gamecocks' first practice of 2013.
Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis both have had an excellent winter conditioning season. Brandon Wilds is faster than he's ever been. He's really fit. Those two backs are ready. I have huge confidence in both those guys.
Ready. After one day of practice.
Are either Wilds or Davis capable of replicating Lattimore's production?
Of course not.
That's asking way too much.
But both are fully capable of being every-down running backs in the SEC, and they've proven it when given the opportunity during their Gamecock careers.
Toss in dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw, and the Gamecocks should be able to pick up right where they left off on the ground. Sure, Shaw is sitting out spring practice following foot surgery and will battle Dylan Thompson for his job this fall, but this is Spurrier we're talking about; the head ball coach loves a game of musical quarterbacks.
Keeping the ground game rolling is going to be crucial for the post-Lattimore Gamecocks. If Spurrier has learned anything during his career in Columbia, it's that running the ball and playing defense isn't a bad game plan if you have the pieces in place.
They have the pieces in place in 2013. As long as they can stay healthy, expect big things from Wilds and Davis.