South Carolina’s running backs on how they stay friends while competing for snaps
There is a deep source of discord in South Carolina’s running backs room. The dispute is football-related, and the battle lines have been drawn clearly, but differently, by the players.
Mon Denson insists he’s the best Madden video game player in the group.
“I’m going to have to say me,” Ty’Son Williams said.
That’s about the only disagreement, though, among the Gamecocks’ quartet of junior running backs. As for who starts for South Carolina every Saturday, they insist it’s not a big deal to them. They save their acrimony for playful arguments over NFL video games.
“All of us have the ability to start,” Rico Dowdle said.
Dowdle has started six of this year’s seven games and led the team with 140 yards on 14 carries last week. He has rushed for 491 yards on 97 carries this year. Williams is next with 289 yards on 59 carries, followed by A.J. Turner, who has 131 yards on 21 carries. Denson, who has played in only three games due to a hamstring injury, has 66 yards on 16 carries.
“A.J. and Mon and Rico and Ty’Son are very close,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Do they all want to carry the ball? Absolutely they do, and they all have a good, competitive nature, but they also want what’s best for our football team.”
The four room together on road trips, and Denson and Dowdle are roommates in Columbia.
“They are not just teammates, they are very close friends off the field,” Muschamp said. “They are always kind of hanging together and, obviously, there is mutual respect.”
Until the conversation turns to their favorite off-field activity.
“We most of the time just sit at the house and play Madden,” Denson said.
“Of course, we compete in everything we do,” Williams said. “If we play a video game, we want to win.”
Williams won the starting job last week and has started four games in his career. Turner has started 10 games this year, while Denson still is looking for his first career start. Together, they are averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season.
“They are always together,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “They are always joking, cracking on each other, especially Mon, he’s always picking on somebody. They are a really tight group, and they really love one another. You will see them on the sideline, if one of them scores, they are all celebrating. They really just cherish each other. It’s impressive to see.”
Dowdle is expected to start Saturday when the Gamecocks (4-3 overall, 3-3 SEC) take on Ole Miss (5-3, 1-3) in Oxford, Miss. South Carolina is 12th in the SEC in rushing with 163.7 yards per game on the ground.
“We go into every game making sure everybody is ready,” Denson said. “If your number is called, be ready to go in and contribute.”