There’s that word again.
Will Muschamp opened South Carolina’s spring practice using it, and now running backs coach Bobby Bentley is doubling down.
“We were kind of soft. Bottom line, we have to be a better, more productive running football team,” Bentley said. “That’s our head coach’s mentality. That’s the mentality of this program. It’s a blue-collar program, and we’ve got to be more productive in the run game.”
But what exactly does “soft” mean? What does it look like? Easy answer, says Bentley. Look at the first three snaps of the South Carolina-Florida game on Nov. 12. The Gamecocks gained 8 yards on a Rico Dowdle carry on the first play of the game. Dowdle ran the ball again on second down and third down. The result was 1 yard and a punt.
“That’s soft,” Bentley said.
The Gamecocks lost that game 20-7. They will continue losing games like that until their running game develops a tougher edge, Bentley said.
“We’ve got to find a way to push through and get those yards,” he said. “We want to run the ball when we want to run the ball, and everybody in the stands knows we’re going to run the ball and still get it. We are a tough football team, we are a hard-nosed, blue-collar football team when we can do that. We are just talking about it right now because we didn’t make it happen last year.”
The Gamecocks were last in the SEC and 91st in the nation in yards per carry last season with 3.62. Their 20 rushing touchdowns were ranked 11th in the SEC.
“Stats can be very misleading at times,” Muschamp said, “but we struggled to run the ball offensively and we struggled to stop the run defensively, and a lot of that goes back to toughness.”
Added experience for sophomore running backs Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner, and the addition of North Carolina transfer Ty’Son Williams will help this season, Bentley said.
“We are going to be more talented. With age comes skill development and we will be a little better from that standpoint. We’ll be stronger. We’ll understand our schemes better,” he said. “We have four of those five starters back (on the offensive line).”
Bentley is particularly encouraged by the addition of Williams, who he calls “an angry runner.”
“He doesn’t want to get tackled. He runs with a little chip on his shoulder and I think when you put him in the backfield with Rico and A.J., you have a dynamic where you look like an SEC backfield,” he said.
Now they have to play like one.
“We have to put our talk into what happens on the field,” Bentley said. “When we walk out to Williams-Brice, and it’s third-and-1 next year, we should get the first down.”