Josh Kendall

These two South Carolina running backs have ‘separated themselves’ atop depth chart

South Carolina’s running game hasn’t generated much optimism the past two years, but that has changed two weeks into the Gamecocks fall camp.

After a Saturday scrimmage in which quarterback Jake Bentley rated the South Carolina running game an “A-plus,” Gamecocks running backs coach Bobby Bentley said Wednesday, “I’m just glad we’re able to run the football right now, especially early in the year. We have a few runs that we feel very good about. I think our running backs want to call those running plays. It’s exciting to see the guys excited about the run game.”

No one has been excited about it in a while. South Carolina has finished 12th and 13th in the SEC in rushing in coach Will Muschamp’s first two seasons, but the Gamecocks are starting to see some light in their ground game.

“I think we’ve done some nice things in the run game,” Muschamp said after Saturday’s scrimmage. “I think we have good backs that run hard.”

Two of those backs are emerging from the pack so far this fall.

“I think right now Rico (Dowdle) and Ty’Son (Williams) have separated themselves a little bit,” Bentley said.

Dowdle, a 6-foot, 215-pound junior, had 66 carries for 251 yards in an injury-hampered season last year.

“He’s healthy now. He looks better,” Bentley said. “He’s more violent. When he turns his shoulders downhill, he’s looking for contact. He’s looking to create yards. If he’s healthy, with the way he ran Saturday, he’s going to have a good year, but he’s got to stay healthy and take care of his body and do the things he’s got to do off the field.”

Williams, a 6-foot, 219-pound junior, had 95 carries for 471 yards last year. Williams was too “anxious” at times last year, Bentley said.

“We need to make sure he’s ready in that situation for his anxiousness and he’s over it,” Bentley said. “Looking at what he did Saturday and what he did in the preseason, I’m excited to see what he does Sept. 1 when the game’s on the line.”

Junior A.J. Turner was the team’s leading rusher with 531 yards on 98 carries, and Mon Denson had 41 carries for 152 yards. Both will be in the rotation again this year, Bentley said.

“Mon Denson has brought in a little extra edge in short-yardage situations, a little bowling ball mentality we need in the system,” Bentley said, “and then A.J. Turner, you get a lot out of him every single day. He’s going to give you everything he’s got out of his body.”

Still, if Bentley has his way, the carries won’t be as evenly dispersed as they were a year ago.

“I don’t want to rotate,” he said. “I want a dominant guy who can stay in the ballgame. Right now, all four of them are working hard and doing well. I’m excited about where we are right now.”