South Carolina’s first game this season without running back Marcus Lattimore, last week’s win over Arkansas, produced mixed results for Lattimore’s replacements, fifth-year senior Kenny Miles and true freshman Mike Davis.
Miles carried 14 times for 37 yards, including a long of 11. Davis had 13 carries for 53 yards, with a long of 20. Miles, of course, was one of two backs, along with Brandon Wilds, who replaced Lattimore for last season’s final six games.
This year, USC will lean on Miles and Davis for the final four games, the second of which will be this Saturday at home against Wofford.
“I feel like I didn’t have that great of a game,” Miles said of his showing against Arkansas. “I feel like I left a lot of yardage on the field, and that’s something I’ve been working on a lot this week, trying to make sure I pick my feet up, making sure I finish my runs and keep my legs moving.”
Arkansas has struggled against the pass, but isn’t too bad against the run this season, allowing an average of 119.7 yards per game, which now ranks No. 23 nationally. The Razorbacks’ 3.27 yards per carry allowed is No. 17. After Wofford, USC travels to Clemson. The Tigers rank No. 77 with 169.3 rushing yards allowed per game and No. 79 with 4.44 yards per carry allowed.
Miles mentioned the importance of picking up his feet, and that isn’t just an idea he pulled out of nowhere. Running backs coach Everette Sands has emphasized the importance of it with his players in practice this week.
“The big thing there is we had three plays where we got shoe-string tackled on Saturday and there was nothing in front of them,” Sands said. “Actually, Kenny came out of one of them. We actually had four plays. He was able to pull his leg out of one of them. But there were three other plays – two for him and one for Mike – that if we would’ve come out of (the shoe-string tackle), it would have been a huge play. Part of it is avoiding (the shoe-string tackle), but of course you can’t always see it. It’s just feeling it and being able to get that leg drive up.”
Like Lattimore, Davis has good size and is bigger than Miles, but Sands wants to see Davis do a better job of gaining yards after contact.
“Once he gets into the pile, keeping those feet moving,” Sands said. “That’s coming from being one of the bigger guys on the field in high school, one of the stronger guys, to now, you’re not really strong, because everybody else is really, really big and real strong. One of the things that made Latt so different than everybody else was his ability to make yards after contact. Mike is actually a pretty strong kid. It’s just learning and being in a live situation. He’s going to build on it and be good down the road.”
Davis’ mixed results in his first significant action is about what you’d expect – and about what Sands expected – from a true freshman who had just 24 carries all season before the Arkansas game, and no more than six carries in any one game.
“He did some good things,” Sands said. “He did some things we’ve got to work on. I thought he had a couple nice runs. I also thought a couple of times, he needed to be a little bit more patient. A couple times, he good on pass (protection). A couple times he was not so good on pass (protection).”