Spring wrap-up: Running back

With Cory Boyd graduating and getting drafted in Saturday's NFL draft, the Gamecocks will look to replace the emotional runner's heart, determination, and talent in the backfield this fall. Veteran Mike Davis is the clear favorite after a strong spring, and Brian Maddox came on strong during the spring game. Read inside as GamecockAnthem.com breaks down the running back position.

After playing second fiddle to Boyd for two years, Davis gets the chance to run the show in the backfield. Like Boyd, Davis is not a speed demon, but is a downhill runner who always seems to fall forward. While Davis will have to prove he can be consistently productive, he has been the clear cut no. 1 back all spring and seems poised to have a big year. The Columbia High graduate has shown flashes of being a very productive back at times in his career, but will need to put together a full season for the USC running game to be as successful as it needs to be. While not an elite receiver out of the backfield like Boyd, Davis can be good in the passing game as well.

Davis will look to add to his 1,658 career rushing yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Davis is ranked 18th all-time on the USC career rushing list and is tied for 11th on the rushing touchdown list.

Sophomore Brian Maddox only carried six times for 14 yards last season, but will enter fall camp as the no. 2 back. Maddox struggled at times this spring finding the hole behind an inconsistent offensive line, but showed why he was the state's leading rusher his senior year of high school, exploding onto the scene for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns in the spring game. Maddox drew praise from USC head coach Steve Spurrier for his performance and seemed relieved about his showing.

Going into his second year in the program, Maddox understands what must be done off the field, and has been a model student as well as a workout warrior. Maddox is also an exceptional receiver out of the backfield, which will get him on the field in many third down situations.

If Maddox can take the momentum from his big performance into the offseason, then he will wind up getting plenty of carries in Spurrier's two-back offense. As seen with Boyd and Davis, Spurrier likes to have two backs he can trust. If Maddox can be that second guy, then the USC running game will be better than many expect.

Behind Maddox is freshman Eric Baker, who joins the Gamecocks via Fork Union Military Academy. Baker, by his own admission, still has a long ways to go as far as learning the offense and the blocking schemes, but did improve day-by-day during the spring. The Jacksonville, Fla. native has a burst the other backs on the roster lack and that could be what keeps the explosive back from redshirting. Baker hits the hole hard and is tough to bring down for a guy his size. The key for Baker to earn some carries this year will be to effectively show the coaches he has improved his knowledge of the offense in the fall. Baker will also have to show his speed and elusiveness bring enough to the table for the coaches to warrant adding a third back into what is primarily a two-back rotation.

Bobby Wallace returns to the fold this year after sitting out last season with a fractured clavicle. Wallace once again had a solid spring, but it remains to be seen if he can find the field or get many carries this year. The Conway native has been impressive in practice in the past, and has even drawn the praise of Spurrier, but never seems to get the chance on gameday. Time wil tell if the scat-back will get his chance to shine this season.

Rounding out the returning lettermen tailbacks is redshirt junior Taylor Rank. Rank has been primarily a special teams performer during his South Carolina career and may also have trouble getting carries with the talent ahead of him. Rank did respond with a 104-yard performance in his only career start against Florida Atlantic, so if some of the guys ahead of him go down, Rank could be called upon again.

Freshman Kenny Miles will get his chance to show what he can do in fall practice. Miles rushed for over 2,400 yards during his senior season at Brookwood High School in Georgia and was ranked a three-star running back by Scout.com. Miles will more than likely redshirt unless he shows the coaches fast that he is too good to keep on the sidelines.

Although he's expected to see time at tight end as well, sophomore Pat DiMarco will enter the fall as the team's starting fullback. Earning valuable snaps last season, DiMarco has firmly grasped many of the intricacies of the position in just his second year, partly in thanks to learning under Lanard Stafford last year. DiMarco provides a big lead blocker in the I-formation who will not be scared to take on defensive linemen or linebackers head-on. DiMarco has the starting fullback spot locked up, but the fullback isn't expected to play as much of a role this fall and DiMarco may see more time at tight end.

Senior Bryan Kingrey, a former walk-on, could see time at fullback with DiMarco likely to be used as a blocking tight end. Kingrey is an experienced player who has played on special teams for much of his Gamecock career. The Raleigh, NC native should step right in and be solid this season.

An intriguing player at fullback is converted-linebacker Yvan Banag. Banag has been a special teams standout for much of his USC career and has 35 career tackles on defense, but he made the move to fullback this spring. If Banag, who was born in Paris, France, can master the fullback position then he could contend for playing time as well.

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