Surprising speed helps USC’s Mike Davis break off long runs

jkendall@thestate.comSeptember 11, 2013 

South Carolina Gamecocks running back Mike Davis (28) breaks free for a 75 yard run during the third quarter at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA, Saturday, September 7, 2013.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Tre Boston will be an NFL defensive back next season.

North Carolina’s senior safety is on the watch lists for the Jim Thorpe Award and the Nagurski Trophy. He is 6-foot-1 and weighs 205 pounds.

Mike Davis is 5-foot-9 and weighs 215 pounds, but on Aug. 29, Davis outran Boston on the way to a 75-yard touchdown against the Tar Heels, changing a lot of minds about how fast such a wide man could move along the way.

“I’ve been surprised by the long runs,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “Mike’s speed is something we didn’t really know about until he got ahead of those North Carolina guys and nobody really caught him.”

It caught South Carolina’s radio announcing team by surprise, too.

“Are you kidding me?” play-by-play voice Todd Ellis called during the run. “Mike Davis goes 75 yards. That Georgia fella can run! Good gracious!”

“I tell you Todd, I think that surprised the fans because they thought it would be like a 10 or 15-yard run and all of a sudden everybody woke up and said, ‘Wait a minute, he’s going to outrun the guy with the angle,’ ” color analyst Tommy Suggs said.

It’s those angles that defenders are going to have to adjust going forward. Boston was the first victim of a perception problem that also was the undoing of Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who chased Davis unsuccessfully during Davis’ 75-yard run against the Bulldogs.

As Davis — one of the Gamecocks’ strongest players and with a chest so wide you wonder if he has to turn sideways to walk through doorways — gets into open space, defensive players can’t imagine he’d be that fast and take their angles of pursuit accordingly, only to be forced to adjust when it’s too late.

“The angles they take are like straight at him,” Spurrier said. “Then, all of sudden, he’s a yard or two ahead. Yeah, I would imagine they underestimate him a little bit.”

Davis is averaging 9.4 yards per carry, more than any player in the SEC with more than 20 carries this season. His 132 yards per game rank fourth in the league, which is more impressive considering he and Georgia’s Todd Gurley are the only SEC running backs who have played two games against BCS conference teams this season.

“If they want to take bad angles, hopefully, I can outrun them,” Davis said.

He is the only player in the nation who has two runs of more than 70 yards this season and one of two players — along with Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson — with two plays of more than 70 yards. The explosive runs have added a dimension to the offense it didn’t have under Marcus Lattimore, the school’s all-time leader in touchdowns and the 2010 national freshman of the year.

“We haven’t had many long runs around here since I’ve been here,” Spurrier said. “Marcus had a few 30-, 40-yarders, but that was about it.”

After Davis’ 75-yard run against the Bulldogs, Lattimore tweeted, “@Mike28Davis you a bad man.”

“They both have their different styles, but I would definitely say Mike has brought a different style of running” than Lattimore, offensive lineman Ronald Patrick said. “I find myself after plays, after he breaks long runs, I find myself watching him. The way he plays is amazing. He has some wheels on him.”

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