Young backs pushing for playing time

Junior running back Kenny Miles has the experience. But freshmen Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds are doing all they can to prove they're read to play. Running backs coach Jay Graham says it's not clear yet who will be the primary back-up to Marcus Lattimore.

It's rare to see South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore hit for a loss of yards. But after Tuesday night's practice, he was at a loss of words when asked about another running back on the team, freshman Shon Carson.

"Carson… man…" the heisman candidate paused. "He's real fast, I can tell you that. And [he's] real strong at the same time. That's what people are going to forget. They'll think he's small, but not strong, and they'll bounce right off of him and he's going to break one for 70."

Listed at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, Carson has drawn some attention in fall camp with his quickness and unexpected ability to bounce off tacklers.

But he isn't the only new tool the Gamecocks have to work with in the backfield this season. Brandon Wilds, another freshman, has also impressed this fall. After running for 33 yards on four carries in a scrimmage last week, Wilds earned a pure compliment from head coach Steve Spurrier.

"Brandon's a good back. He can sort of make guys miss and knows how to hit the hole."

Spurrier added that Wilds would likely avoid a redshirt due to his ability to help on special teams.

It's not clear who will be the No. 2 running back behind Lattimore, as junior Kenny Miles -- the No. 2 back on the post-spring depth chart -- tries to hold off the freshmen. But one thing does seem certain - when the coaches want to spell No. 21, the running game won't go stagnant.

"All of them are good backs," Lattimore said of the committee behind him on the depth chart. "All of them can run, all of them can catch and block. We have a great group of running backs."

As for the man who will be asked to lead one of these backs into the opposing secondary, junior tight end Justice Cunningham is seeing more reps at the full back position.

"It's new and exciting to see him playing full back," running backs coach Jay Graham said. "It just expands his role in this offense. I think he likes it."

Lattimore also seems okay with the prospect of having Cunningham in front of him.

"He's got a nasty demeanor about him. He wants to go hit people," Lattimore said. "Anything with hitting people, like running that iso or sealing the backside of the zone. He's gotten stronger and faster."

As for Lattimore himself, who has seen hardly any reps in live scrimmaging this fall, he doesn't foresee that as being too much of a problem.

"I'm pretty comfortable right now. I know the offense. I'm getting mental reps. The game is more mental than physical, I think. And when I get in there, I will take advantage of my reps."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories