USC’s Bobby Bentley is looking for a running back to step up
Now, he is ready for one of his talented athletes to become the leader of the group.
“We want a dominant person to step up,” said Bentley. “You have to have another guy to fill in just for the sake of rotating, but I want someone to step up and be the guy that everybody in the stands knows he’s going to get the ball on third and two and get the first down. That’s what the great ones do.
“That’s what we’ve got to do in our running back room. Somebody’s got to step up, get the first down on third and two when everybody in the stands, including my wife, knows we’re going to carry the ball and get the first down.”
Junior Rico Dowdle has been the leader of the group the last two seasons after rushing for 764 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman. He got a majority of the snaps early in his sophomore campaign prior to breaking his leg against Tennessee.
He returned to action in the second half of the Outback Bowl, however, rushing for 45 yards and a touchdown on six carries and catching three passes for 32 yards.
Dowdle missed the spring as he continued to rehab his leg.
“It has been nagging for him,” Bentley said of Dowdle’s injury. “It has been bothering him since the bowl game. He’s out there and helps us win the bowl game. I don’t know what percent he was, but he wasn’t 100 percent.
“He’s talented. We want him ready and healthy. He’ll help us on the field as a power guy because he’s a slasher, just like he ran the touchdown on the speed option being able to cut back on that back shoulder against the safety. We need that on the field.”
A player expected to have more of an impact in his first season with the Gamecocks after transferring from North Carolina was Sumter native Ty’Son Williams.
Although the big, rugged performer displayed glimpses of that expected talent rushing for 78 yards against Missouri and 95 against Louisiana Tech, Williams didn’t have the impact Bentley expected.
“Ty’Son, it all goes back to being ready, being prepared and confident,” said Bentley. “If you look at him, he is probably the most talented running back on the field. That has to carry on to the game. That’s why you see a lot of inconsistencies. But, on the practice field, he is a dominant guy.
“That’s got to carry over. We’ll have to wait to the Coastal Carolina game to see how he performs because we’ve got to see it under the lights.”
Williams has worked on those confidence issues which could mean a standout junior campaign. He played well in the Gamecocks spring game rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown on four carries.
“I think he’s over it and I think he’s ready to take the next step and become a pro,” said Bentley.
Junior A.J. Turner has been the Gamecocks change of pace back during his collegiate career. Like Dowdle, however, he has more than 1,000 career rushing yards and hopes to become the squad’s number one guy.
“He had a great year and was probably our most explosive player,” said Bentley. “He was voted on by his teammates to be that guy. He had a great year and does such a good job for us on special teams.”
Another junior, Mon Denson, could also figure into the mix along with talented freshmen Deshaun Fenwick and Lavonte Valentine.
Bentley uses a player he coached at Byrnes High School as the example of what he wants in a running back.
“Marcus Lattimore, the first time he touched the ball as a (high school) freshman on national TV, he scored a touchdown,” he said. “That’s the mentality we’ve got to have in the room. I’m not sure we’ve had that in the past. We’ve got to have it this year.”