From potential redshirt to dressing out

Three weeks ago it appeared Mike Davis was headed for a redshirt. Two weeks ago the possibility of playing time had increased. By last week, the talk of redshirting turned into talk of playing after two running backs went down with preseason injuries. Davis will be on the plane Wednesday to head to Vanderbilt and playing remains a possibility.

Coming out of high school Mike Davis looked like a sure bet to at least see some action wherever he chose to play football for. In the end it was South Carolina that Davis chose, much to the chagrin of his older brother, James, who played his college football at rival Clemson.

After a strong spring, senior Kenny Miles decided to return for his final season, adding to the logjam for playing time behind Marcus Lattimore. It was then that playing time for Davis began to diminish and as fall camp opened up the coaching staff was deciding whether or not Davis should redshirt.

Then it happened.

One of the players competing for that third string job behind Lattimore and Miles got hurt. Brandon Wilds suffered an ankle sprain early in fall camp and has still not recovered, expected to miss at least the first two or three games.

Davis moved up a spot.

Not long after Wilds went down, Shon Carson injured his left wrist and underwent a surgical procedure to fix the wrist. Initially, it was said that Carson would miss the first few weeks, but head coach Steve Spurrier said Carson could miss much of the season.

All of a sudden the deepest position on the roster began to thin out. Davis moved from fifth string and likely redshirting to third string and dressing out for Thursday's season opener at Vanderbilt. As any college kid would do when hearing the news, Davis had to make a phone call.

"I called home and talked to my mom and told her I might be dressing out for the Vandy game and might be playing, so if you want to come I can get the tickets," Davis said. "Next thing I know I get a call from my brother letting me know he's proud of me and telling me he was third string going into the season his freshman year, too."

Instead of working to gain experience in his redshirt year, Davis began taking reps with the thoughts of actually hearing his number called on game day. Any time something like that happens things begin to change quickly. Now that game week is here and Davis will be on the plane flying to Nashville Wednesday, his whole mindset has changed.

"I feel a lot different," Davis said. "I realize that I have to work even harder than I did before. The injuries that happened to those guys, it's not a good thing for them and I wish it never happened to them so I'm just out there playing for those guys."

Davis was a stud in high school. The Georgia native rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons, including 1,923 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior season. Davis played in the U.S. Army All-American game and was rated the 10th-best running back in the nation by That was high school. It's a new ball game now.

"The biggest thing for an incoming freshman is knowing where they're coming from," Davis said. "You don't know where they're coming from and you don't know which one the linemen are going to pick up. It's basically just knowing who to pick up that I'm learning more every day.

"At the end of the day you just play football and not allow anyone to come free."

When Davis arrived on campus he wasn't worried about whether or not he would redshirt or how much he might get to play. His number one focus was to learn the position better and get better every day. That way whenever his number was called he would be ready to go in there. It helped him a lot knowing that he was coming in and learning from one of the best running backs in college football.

"My mindset was to come in here and work hard and learn from the best," Davis said. "We have one of the best running backs here, Marcus Lattimore. If there's anything I don't know I ask Marcus and he helps me out a lot with everything."

Davis also has someone else to turn to when his teammates are not around; his brother.

"The advice he gives me is to work hard at everything; don't slow down, work hard, and compete, compete, compete," Davis said.

Though somewhat reluctant to say for sure, Davis has the confidence that if he is asked to get out on the field in Nashville he can get the job done. After all, for the last month he's been working against a defense that would rank right up there with anybody on the Carolina schedule.

"I feel pretty good about myself," Davis said. "I feel like if I can break long runs in practice against our defense, then there are things I should be able to do against other teams because we have one of the best defenses in the SEC. I think I'll be ready. The team has been helping me out a lot."

When the team is on the bus riding to the stadium Thursday night, most will have their ipods or iphones and headphones in their ears. Many will be listening to rap music to get focused on the game. Some may choose rock to get pumped up and some may even choose country. When Davis hops off the bus he will probably have a big smile on his face. That is because he will be listening to artists such as Mike Epps and Kevin Hart, comedians.

"I have to laugh," Davis said about his choice in pregame material. "You just can't go into anything without having fun. Football is something you've got to have fun."

If things continue to go his way, Davis could be doing a lot of smiling this season and having a lot of fun.

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