Josh Kendall

Dowdle, Gamecocks have point to prove in 2017

Rico Dowdle has something to prove, which he thinks makes him a good fit on South Carolina’s 2017 football team.

“Us as South Carolina, we have a bunch to prove to people,” the Gamecocks sophomore running back said.

South Carolina was 6-7 last season, with some highs and lows, just like the running back who entered this spring atop the depth chart. Dowdle started the final six games of 2016 and had a team-high 764 yards on 133 carries. He had 127 yards against Tennessee, 149 against Missouri and 226 against Western Carolina, but he was held to 18 by Florida and 30 by Clemson. Those last two numbers are the ones he will use to motivate himself between now and the fall.

“I’m real eager,” Dowdle said. “Last year, in two games against two really good teams, kind of nothing at all.”

One thing that will help Dowdle this fall is being healthy. He missed his first fall practice with the team and the first four games of last season because of sports hernia surgery in the offseason. He never felt fully whole during the season, he said.

“I think I was probably around 75-80 percent, couldn’t get healthy, banged up, one injury after another,” said Dowdle, whose 764 yards last year were the ninth-most by a freshman back in FBS.

Dowdle’s improved health has shown this spring, coach Will Muschamp said, and he’s added eight pounds in the weight room, putting him up to 220.

“I think Rico has had a really good spring,” Muschamp said. “He’s never been through a full training program, as far as getting stronger and all the things we talk about. He’s very strong in his lower body, and I’ve seen some very nice runs in terms of vertical, one-cut runs that he has made. I have been very impressed.”

Dowdle’s teammates have been impressed by his improved knowledge of the offense.

“He looks really good,” quarterback, Jake Bentley said. “The improvements that he has made from last year to this year have been great. He’s really worked hard in the weight room and the film room.”

Wide receiver Deebo Samuel echoed those sentiments.

“He’s running harder, and he really knows what he’s doing now,” Samuel said. “He had to get his body right and get ready to play.”

Dowdle will have to hold off an expected push from Ty’Son Williams, a transfer from North Carolina, if he’s going to hold onto the starting job. The Gamecocks also return A.J. Turner, who started four games at tailback last year.

“We have three good backs,” Dowdle said. “I think we all three can go in and do the same thing and produce for the team.”