At the close of spring practice, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp had to have a sit-down with one of his top running backs.
Rico Dowdle showed flashes of being a top back his freshman season. Then a broken bone in his leg ended his sophomore campaign early. This spring, a hamstring injury sidelined him for much of practice.
And that was the reason for the talk Tuesday.
“Rico and I had a long conversation,” Muschamp said. “A lot of the soft-tissue issues go back to hydration. They go back to continuing to strain the muscle all the time."
Muschamp pointed out the history, starting with the groin issue he brought with him to Columbia. Dowdle overcame that to run for 764 yards and six touchdowns in nine games as a freshman.
But he never really got going as a sophomore, as apparent injuries kept him to 3.8 yards per carry before the ankle injury against Tennessee.
That injury was something different from what sidelined him in the spring.
“The soft-tissue issues are my concern,” Muschamp said. “When they break a bone, those are things that are frustrating but happen. But when you start talking in terms of soft tissue issues, we’ve practically eliminated our issues from Year 1 to Year 2. A lot of it went through hydration, living the right way, getting the right amount of sleep and straining all the time.”
Those early soft-tissue issues included nagging hamstring issues for Deebo Samuel and Randrecous Davis.
Muschamp said Dowdle agreed with the assessment, credited his maturity and understanding of what he needs to do.
And if Dowdle continues to be sidelined, Muschamp has a plan for that too.
“The great thing for us right now is Ty’Son Williams and A.J. Turner,” Muschamp said. “We have two guys we’ll roll out there and play with anybody.”