Mon Denson feels like he improved and evolved as a running back his senior year at LaGrange High.
Along the way, the South Carolina signee from LaGrange, Ga., added some weight and gave something up. There is no sideline-to-sideline in his game, he said, and downhill comes before dancing.
“I had to stop dancing this year since I gained more weight,” Denson said. “My ninth through 11th grade year I was at 185 to 195. I could do a lot of shaking then. Now it’s just straight forward. I just like to run people over. I can make them miss if I have to.”
Denson weighed in at 225 pounds on his official visit last month with the Gamecocks, 40 pounds heavier than fellow tailback signee A.J. Turner. Both measured in at 5-foot-10.
Denson is built similar to the 5-foot-9, 223-pound Mike Davis, who led USC in rushing the past two seasons but is now bound for the NFL.
The extra mass puts him in position to handle more carries and take more hits, Denson said, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be quick.
“He’s a specimen. He’s got muscles everywhere,” LaGrange coach Dialleo Burks said. “He can pound for 3 or 4, or he can go for 65 at any time. He’s powerful and he can run. His lateral movement can get better. He has pretty good feet. He makes some cuts and I think, ‘Wow, I didn’t think he could do that at his size.’ ”
Denson committed to USC in July a few days after attending the Gamecock Showcase camp and receiving an offer from running backs coach Everette Sands. Special teams coach Joe Robinson was his recruiter of record.
The three-star prospect, whose full name is Daquarious Demond Denson, picked the Gamecocks over 20-plus offers that included Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
Rivals analyst Woody Wommack called Denson a “bulldozing back” in his assessment of the Gamecock Showcase performance.
“Denson came to Columbia with one thing on his mind, to earn a scholarship offer,” Wommack wrote. “He did just that, showing a nice burst for a big-bodied back.”
A two-year starter for the Grangers, Denson ran for 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. He played in the Georgia-Florida All-Star game and the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl.
Burks said he worked with Denson this season as much on the mental aspect of the game as he did with improving his physical approach and technique. Getting his mind ready for the next level was important, the coach said.
“Once he gets there he’s going to have guys running just as fast as he can run and lift just as much as he can lift,” Burks said. “He’s going to have to get that edge mentally. Who’s going to be able to go that extra mile, do things when coaches are not around?”
Denson, who originally thought he was destined to redshirt as a true freshman, said that may not be the case anymore.
“I see playing time if I come in with the mindset of wanting to play, it can happen,” he said. “They rotate three backs, and that’s why I liked it. That sort of made up my mind to commit to South Carolina.”