2006 Position Preview: Running Backs

The South Carolina rushing attack left a lot to be desired in Steve Spurrier's first season at the helm. With a pair of true freshman tailbacks and a makeshift offensive line, the Gamecocks struggled to run the ball for much of the season. In fact, Carolina finished the year with the 108th ranked rushing offense in the nation.

However, what was an obvious weakness last season could turn into a strength in 2006.

Columbia (SC) native, Mike Davis was the Gamecocks leading rusher in 2005, as he accumulated 666 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, while averaging a respectable 4.6 yards per carry. However, the season ending stats don't begin to tell the tale. Davis suffered some major growing pains as a freshman last season, and he only averaged 28.7 yards rushing through the first seven games of the year. However, Davis matured as the season went along, and he went on to average 94.8 yards rushing in the final five games, including a career high 125 yard rushing performance in the bowl game against Missouri.

Davis has taken that momentum into the off-season, and he capped off a fantastic spring camp by being named the Offensive Player of the Spring, as well as the team's Outstanding Running Back. Coach Spurrier even made a point to acknowledge Davis' progress in a press conference earlier this summer.

"Right now Mike Davis is our starting tailback. He's having an excellent summer. He is stronger, faster, and really works hard. He and Fred Bennett have probably been our best leaders as far as going to all the workout sessions. We're excited about what Mike is doing here."

While Davis may currently have a grasp on the starting spot, that doesn't mean he won't be challenged once fall camp starts. Cory Boyd is coming off a one year suspension for a violation of team policy, but if the spring was any indication, then Boyd will play a huge role in the Gamecock offense this season. Boyd, who accumulated 1,033 total yards in his first two seasons at Carolina, gave Gamecock fans a taste of what to expect this fall during the annual Garnet and Black game. Boyd rushed five times for 87 yards, including a 71 yard touchdown scamper in the spring finale. The rejuvenated Boyd was awarded with the Everyday Effort Award at the conclusion of spring practice.

The tailback combo of Davis and Boyd led Coach Spurrier to make a pretty bold statement while on the Gamecock Club circuit this spring.

"Cory Boyd and Mike Davis are two of the best running backs I've ever had on the same team. They're close to the guys we had down in Florida. We have two excellent tailbacks right now, and running the ball will be a priority for us."

Not to be forgotten in the tailback rotation is the electrifying Bobby Wallace. The Conway (SC) product rushed for only 135 yards as a true freshman in 2005, but he recorded a career high 51 yards on 6 carries in the regular season finale against Clemson. Wallace had a solid spring, but he may have had the best all around performance in the Garnet and Black game with 70 yards rushing on 11 carries and another 44 yards receiving. Wallace will join Davis and Boyd in the backfield for what could become a three headed monster in the running back rotation. He will also see extensive action at the slot receiver position this season in an effort to get the ball in his hands more often.

Redshirt freshman Taylor Rank could also figure into the running back rotation this fall. The 6'0, 210 pound Vancouver (WA) native has had trouble staying healthy throughout his first year here, and those frustrations led him to consider transferring this spring, but he ultimately decided to stay at Carolina. Rank brings a punishing, straight-ahead style of running to the table, and he is not afraid to run over defenders along the way. If he can stay healthy, then he could potentially earn playing time this season.

With the loss of Daccus Turman to graduation, there will be a two-man battle at the fullback position in 2006. Senior walk-on Lanard Stafford will attempt to beat out true freshman, Clark Gaston for the fullback duties this season. With the assortment of talented tailbacks, the fullback spot may not be fully utilized this season. The coaching staff has installed multiple two-back sets with two tailbacks in the backfield, but the fullbacks will still see action in short yardage situations.

Projected Starter: Mike Davis, Lanard Stafford

Projected Reserves: Cory Boyd, Bobby Wallace, Taylor Rank, Clark Gaston

This has been the second article in a continuing, eight part series of position previews.

Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com for continued, comprehensive coverage of Carolina football.

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