South Carolina had a strong running back duo last season as Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner combined to rush for more than 1,200 yards for the Gamecocks.
That situation will be even better in 2017.
Dowdle and Turner return, and the Gamecocks will welcome the services of Ty'Son Williams, a former top high school player in the state of South Carolina. The running back spent his freshman season at North Carolina before deciding to transfer to the Gamecocks last year.
Williams redshirted last season after transferring from the Tar Heels, and he enters this year "older and wiser," which can only be a good thing for the Gamecocks.
"It was more about trying to develop the body and getting you prepared for playing on Saturdays," Williams said of the redshirt workouts.
Williams dazzled his South Carolina teammates during those workouts and practices and impressed the coaches as well. A big back at 6-foot, 209 pounds, Williams has the ability to both run over people and bounce it to the outside and run past defenders.
While he was impressive during practices, it was tough for Williams on game days last season.
"The hardest thing was knowing I couldn't go out there with my teammates," Williams said. "I (was) in there practicing with them, trying to give them a good look, so when they go out there (in a game) you want to go out there with your guys."
However, the year gave Williams a chance to learn from running backs coach Bobby Bentley. As a freshman at North Carolina, Williams ran 19 times for 57 yards. The redshirt year allowed Williams to focus on things he could do to become a better player.
"There were a lot of things," Williams said. "I felt like I wasn't being patient running the ball. Just working on my cuts, working on where your eyes need to be, just a lot of little things that make a big difference."
Williams' backfield teammates are excited to finally be able to play with the talented back.
"It's going to be a great season, I feel like," Turner said. "We have three backs now. There's never going to be a drop off. That's always a good thing. Ultimately, we want to win (and) usually you're supposed to have two backs, but now that we have three, that gives us an advantage. I'm really excited for it."
Turner burst onto the scene last year as a redshirt freshman. He didn't receive a lot of hype entering spring practice, but great performances in the preseason allowed him to stand out from the crowd. He went on to start four games for the Gamecocks and was second on the team in rushing yards. He is the smallest tailback of the group, but believes he can do a lot of different things for his team.
"I feel like I'm versatile," Turner said. "I can split out wide, run routes, stay inside and run inside zone and stuff like that. I can do a number of different things."
Williams was able to sit back and watch Dowdle blossom into a spectacular player. The Asheville native missed the first four games while recovering from sports hernia surgery, but was a force to be reckoned with when he was able to get on the field. Dowdle rushed for a team-high 764 yards in nine games, and Williams is excited to be on the field with him.
"I was very impressed," Williams said. "A freshman coming in and making that big of an impact, that's tremendous. You don't see that a lot of times, especially in the SEC."
All three of the running backs believe they bring something different to the table, and Mon Denson and Caleb Kinlaw should further enhance the tailback depth. The talented and deep running back core should give the Gamecocks valuable weapons to use behind quarterback Jake Bentley.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**