COLUMBIA, S.C. — Over the final nine games last season, the South Carolina ground game received much-needed shot in the arm.
It came in the form of freshman running back Rico Dowdle, who finished the season as the team leader with 764 yards rushing. Earlier this week, during his first media appearance as a Gamecocks player, Dowdle had little to no interest in rehashing his personal accomplishments from 2016.
“I was proud of getting my first touchdown in college against Georgia, but that’s really it for me,” he said. “Highlights, I don’t really have individuals. I have team highlights. We won the Tennessee game, a big game, we got to a bowl game. That was pretty great, the whole bowl experience in Birmingham.”
For Dowdle, sophomore year at South Carolina is about two things.
“A goal I set for the spring is better pass protection, which comes with better knowledge of the game and knowing exactly where to be, so that’s my goal,” he said. “And just staying healthy, treat my body right throughout the spring, trying to be good up until April 1 and maintain that to the season.”
Dowdle, who had sports hernia surgery last summer, experienced another setback a few weeks later when he injured his groin. The second injury forced him to miss the first four games of the season before his October 1 appearance against Texas A&M.
A former quarterback at A.C. Reynolds High School (Asheville, N.C.), Dowdle scored 6 touchdowns, averaged 5.74 yards per carry and rushed for more than 100 yards in three games.
“I think I was somewhere around 75 or 80 percent. I couldn’t get healthy,” Dowdle said. “Banged up, one injury after another. Just working on it in the offseason. I’m treating my body better, doing better things, as far as taking care of myself. Hopefully, next season, better results.”
Right now, as South Carolina approaches the halfway point in spring practice, Dowdle feels good.
“I think I’m up to par, right about now,” he said. “I’m getting around somewhere, around 100 percent.”
That could be downright scary for SEC defenses, especially when you consider who else will be in the Gamecocks backfield.
“We’ve got three really good backs, Ty’Son, A.J., me (and) we’ve got a couple of other backs,” Dowdle said. “But that combination, we all three can go in and do the same thing and produce for the team.”