It looks pretty simple. David Williams is the most experienced running back returning, so he’s the No. 1 guy for South Carolina this season.
Looks can be deceiving.
Whether it’s him trying to stoke a fire under Williams or legitimate frustration, coach Will Muschamp didn’t speak in glowing terms of the redshirt junior Wednesday. Asked what Williams needed to do to become an elite SEC running back, Muschamp answered consistency, before offering a few other thoughts.
“The guy’s got some ability, but you know, it’s hard when you got to challenge somebody every single day of practice and every meeting. It gets tiring for coaches,” Muschamp said. “I asked him the other day, ‘What have you accomplished since you’ve been here?’ ”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Williams had no reply, Muschamp said. And suddenly, the Gamecocks’ running game looked even more insolvent than it previously had.
There are nine running backs on the roster. Of the other eight, five have never played a snap of college ball, a sixth is ineligible this year and the other two have been primarily special-teamers during their USC careers.
The process of elimination leaves Williams as the top option. With the Gamecocks already breaking in two new quarterbacks and a fleet of unproven wide receivers, they’d like to have a dependable, every-down back to keep those sticks moving.
They’d like to have the talented David Williams they signed, not the David Williams that sputtered and gasped last season. Not the top guy only because the others haven’t played.
Williams said in the spring he thought he had a mediocre 2015, when he was down more than two yards per carry from 2014 and had a pedestrian 299 yards on 86 attempts. He didn’t score a single touchdown and his carries were so poor on film that new position coach Bobby Bentley thought he was running with his eyes closed.
Williams said in the spring, and at Monday’s Media Day, that he didn’t think he was being used correctly. “I need the ball more than once, more than three or five times, just to see and get a feel for the game instead of just going in and having a mindset like, ‘I got to hurry up and try to score before my turn was up,’” he said in the spring. “I wasn’t able to be comfortable and let the game come to me.”
On Monday, Williams said he’d been studying more film and blocking techniques and was seeing the game slow down. That was after he again remarked he didn’t feel he got a fair shake.
“I just think last year, coach (Steve) Spurrier was more old-fashioned and it was more so, who was here first,” he said. “So no matter what you did, it was really about the older guys, they want to get the older guys in and out. I guess you got to wait your turn.”
His turn seems to be now, at least in the preseason. Darius Paulk and Rod Talley have played, but mostly on special teams, and Mon Denson, A.J. Turner, C.J. Freeman and Rico Dowdle have never played.
Then came Muschamp on Wednesday. Any thoughts that Williams was the No. 1 back on the roster were quickly changed.
Although Williams, at least on Monday, had no doubt.
“I’m not expecting nothing less,” he said. “I’m just doing everything pro. I think one thing that played a big part in me getting better was just knowing defensive schemes and basically visualizing the play before it happens.”
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState