Ty’Son Williams was a scout team player at South Carolina last year. Just don’t tell him that.
The transfer running back from North Carolina was forced by NCAA rules to sit out last season, relegating him to the Gamecocks practice squad, but in his mind’s eye, he was in a game every day. Every carry was a competition against an SEC defense, the plays he was running the same ones he ran as a Tar Heel in 2015 and the same ones he will run for the Gamecocks this fall.
“Of course you want to have a little chip on your shoulder, but at the end of the day I just wanted to work hard and play ball,” the 6-foot, 220-pound Sumter native said. “That’s what has gotten me to this point so I just wanted to prove myself as a player and get better.”
Williams was a scout team standout last season, drawing praise from South Carolina defenders throughout his season in purgatory.
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“I just felt like it was working hard,” Williams said. “I didn’t look at as me giving the defense a look, I just kind of looked at it like offense going against defense. A lot of those plays we ran getting ready for other teams are the same ones we have.”
Williams, a sophomore, will get to run them for real this fall. After gaining 57 yards on 19 carries for North Carolina in 2015, the Crestwood High School graduate decided to transfer for what he said were family reasons.
“Ty’son Williams is a guy we are excited about,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said. “We think he’s got a huge upside.”
Williams will join a backfield that also includes returners Rico Dowdle (133 carries, 764 yards, six TDs last season) and A.J. Turner (116 carries, 497 yards, three TDs last season).
“I think his running style would be more similar to Rico,” Muschamp said. “He’s a bigger back; he’s a vertical runner; he’s a one cut runner, runs through contact extremely well, great work ethic, has great hands out of the backfield. I think all three of those will complement each other extremely well, and in our league it’s tough to make it through the season with one or two.”
Williams, formerly a four-star recruit, had scholarship offers from North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin coming out of Crestwood. When he arrived in Chapel Hill, though, he found himself playing behind entrenched backs Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan.
“I just want to play ball like I know I can, don’t go out there doubting yourself,” Williams said. “Once I do that, everything else will take care of itself. I tried to stay positive through it all. My teammates and coaches encouraged me, saying, ‘The time will be here before you know it.’ ”
Williams’ first real chance to compete against Dowdle and Turner begins Saturday when the Gamecocks open spring practice.
“I think there are a lot of things I can contribute but for the most part I just think maturity, being that this is going on my third year in college,” Williams said. “Me, A.J. and Mon (Denson) are the older guys in the group. It’s on us to kind of set the example and show the younger guys how we’re supposed to work.”
The Gamecocks were 13th in the SEC in rushing last season (134.4 yards per game), but Williams believes experience alone will boost that position this fall.
“Just knowing that a lot of things last year happened with true freshmen,” he said, “so I think as a program we are heading in the right direction.”