COLUMBIA, S.C. — Rico Dowdle did not participate in preseason camp because of a groin injury, he didn’t play or practice for the first four weeks of the season, either.
On Saturday, the South Carolina freshman running back made his debut against No. 9 Texas A&M with just a week’s worth of practice under his belt. It was a success for Dowdle, who rushed 9 times for 47 yards in South Carolina’s 24-13 loss to the Aggies.
“He runs through contact,” coach Will Muschamp said. “He is an explosive runner. A lot of times on that zone read when you’ve got that defensive end lagging down the line and you’re able to get that punch and you’re able to run through contact, it’s something you need. He’s got some strength about him and some lower body explosive power.”
The Asheville, N.C., native made his debut in the first quarter. His first play was a rush for a 1-yard gain, but it was negated by a Texas A&M penalty.
When he came back in midway through the second quarter, he showed why the USC coaches got him on the field quickly. He ran for 12 yards, breaking through tackles. He ran for 6 yards, then another 6 yards.
“He runs really hard,” running back A.J. Turner said. “He was breaking a lot of tackles. That’s something that we need. We need people that can make plays — explosive plays so we can put the offense in a good position.”
The Gamecocks are looking for more out of their rushing attack. They ran for a season-high 164 yards Saturday, thanks to a 75-yard run from Turner on the first play of the game.
Muschamp said he thinks Turner is capable of taking on more carries. But South Carolina now has a third option to join Turner and David Williams, as Dowdle made a strong first impression.
“Hopefully with David playing well and Rico playing well, you’ve got three guys,” Muschamp said. “In our league, you need to have a bunch of guys because at the end of the day as the season rolls on, you’re going to continue to take a lot of hits.”