For the South Carolina Gamecocks, 2013 did not end with a shot at an SEC title. But, the season did lead to the emergence of a superstar-caliber running back in Mike Davis.
Used somewhat sparingly, Davis strung together a monster season in his first year as the premier back. Considering that he had to fill fan favorite Marcus Lattimore's role on the team, Davis succeeded with flying colors.
As the future of the offense and an elite SEC back, Davis has superior value to be a Heisman contender in 2014. In fact, his name came up at times regarding the 2013 Heisman mix.
With a full year as the workhorse back and in an offense that recognizes his potential, Davis and the Gamecocks should start up the 2014 Heisman campaign.
Can he stampede his way to a rare Heisman victory for a running back and join South Carolina legend George Rogers as the second winner in school history?
Here's the early start to the 2014 Mike Davis for Heisman campaign.
When spring practice opened, South Carolina needed a running back to take the place of Lattimore. It was between Brandon Wilds and Davis. Davis seized the opportunity and never looked back as he put up a big 2013 season.
Davis had seven games where he rushed for more than 100 yards. In those games, he averaged 7.15 yards per carry, a staggering number considering that some of those opponents include Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi State.
While banged up at the end of the season, Davis managed to run for 1,134 yards on 194 carries and maintained a yards-per-carry average of 5.8. At times, he suffered from the fumble bug, but he also scored 11 times, with 10 of those touchdowns coming in the first seven games.
Don't forget, Davis also hauled in 32 catches for 342 yards. As a running back, those are pretty good receiving stats.
Even though Davis averaged just over 17 carries a game in 2012, he put up monstrous stats.
Given a larger body of work in 2014 as the focal point of the offense, Davis can reach Heisman status.
Sophomore running backs in the SEC who perform like Davis did in 2013 are a rarity. South Carolina needs to turn Davis loose by giving him 25 carries a game and airing the ball out to him, and he will be on his way to Heisman glory.
In today's football, the balanced running back is slowly dying. With teams moving to more spread and pistol offenses, speed is the biggest desire, which is all good depending on whether you are old-school or new-school. Though, a traditional power back with bursts of speed and versatility is still the most prized back. Davis has all of those qualities.
Whether it is out of the I formation in power sets or via the shotgun, Davis has the running skills to make plays happen. He can chew away at a defense with his consistent five-yard gains and then in a flash, burst through a gap and take off to the races.
His vision is second to none, and he's working behind a great group of offensive linemen who will be back in 2014 to set up the holes for Davis to run through.
What I like about Davis is his ability to run angry. Mark Ingram was an angry runner when he won the Heisman. Adrian Peterson is still an angry runner. Running backs of that caliber do whatever it takes to not go down and keep their momentum going forward.
Downhill running with power and speed in an angry fashion means Davis will toss opposing defenders around, and he will be a menace to bring down as he busts tackles left and right.
Beyond his running and the stellar offensive line, Davis has excellent hands and runs solid routes. He can take a screen pass and turn it into a big play. He can run the wheel, and he is a good checkdown wide receiver for South Carolina's quarterbacks.
If Davis can build on his ground-and-pound skills as well as his receiving and work patiently behind what will be an excellent offensive line, Davis can become a dominant force.
Since 2000, only one running back has won the Heisman: Alabama's Mark Ingram in 2009 (Reggie Bush's was taken away.) Before then, running backs had a spree of winning the Heisman with guys like Ron Dayne, Ricky Williams, Eddie George, Rashaan Salaam and Barry Sanders hoisting the award at season's end.
Throughout the 2000s, as the NFL and college football became passing leagues, quarterbacks received and continue to receive all of the Heisman hype and glory. It's time a running back bursts onto the scene again. This is Mike Davis' opportunity.
We've seen Toby Gerhart, LaMichael James, Darren McFadden, Trent Richardson and Montee Ball work their way in as finalists, but only one Heisman has been won by a running back since the turn of the millennium.
South Carolina and Mike Davis have a golden opportunity to give the pigskin to a superstar back play after play and let him run and catch his way to a Heisman trophy.
Start the hype now, carry it through the offseason and take the field at full speed in 2014, Mr. Davis. And you could be on your way to being called the second Mr. Heisman in Gamecocks history.