Mon Denson had to wait a long time for his first carry as a Gamecock. The sophomore running back had to wait a long time just to step on the field, for that matter.
Denson, a 5-foot-10, 209-pound LaGrange, Ga., native, came to South Carolina in 2015. He redshirted that season and then watched from the sideline in 2016, which wasn’t always easy.
“Yeah, I was pretty frustrated, but I finally got over it, just kept working, overcame adversity and now I’m out there,” Denson said.
Denson saw his first collegiate action in the season-opener against N.C. State, but he played only special teams in the first five games. Then, starting running back Rico Dowdle suffered a broken leg against Arkansas, and Denson finally found himself in the running back rotation.
So far, it’s a limited role as the third-string tailback, but still it’s gratifying for Denson.
“It’s just a blessing,” Denson said. “I have been here three years, and I have just been waiting on it.”
Denson had eight carries for 25 yards against Arkansas and another four carries for 14 yards against Tennessee. He is expected to be in the rotation behind Ty’Son Williams and A.J. Turner again on Saturday when the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2 SEC) take on Vanderbilt at 4 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Even when Mon wasn’t playing, I thought that we had four good backs, because I had a lot of confidence in Mon to do a nice job for us,” coach Will Muschamp said.
Muschamp describes Denson as a “north-south, one-cut” runner, high praise from a coach who values a physical running game.
“I don’t really do anything different (than Williams and Turner),” Denson said. “I just add on to the run game a little bit, polish it up a little more. It makes it easier because we can always be fresh out there on the field.”
Muschamp understands why Denson was frustrated early in his career.
“You come to South Carolina to get a great education, compete and play, and when you’re not playing, it’s always frustrating,” Muschamp said. “You put in a lot of time. You’re talking about in the offseason, in the weight room, the amount of time these young men spend listening to (strength coach) Jeff Dillman holler and scream, that’s going to drive you nuts even thinking about it. You invest so much to not get a return of the gratification of going out and playing.”
Denson never was “a negative guy” last year, Muschamp said.
“He’s always been a positive guy, very popular with his teammates, and that tells me a lot about the type person he is,” Muschamp said. “He’s a wonderful person.”
Denson wasn’t always as positive on the inside, he admitted this week.
“When I wasn’t playing, I was frustrated,” he said. “Just sat down with myself, prayed a lot, had to see what I was doing wrong to see what was going on.”
Who: South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network Radio: 107.5 FM