Editor’s note: Over the next final couple of weeks before preseason camp, SEC Country will take a position-by-position look at South Carolina’s 2016 roster. Up next in the position preview series are the running backs.
Former South Carolina high school coaching legend Bobby Bentley was followed Will Muschamp from Auburn to coach the Gamecocks’ running backs.
South Carolina is without last year’s leading rusher, Brandon Wilds, who’s competing for a roster spot with the Atlanta Falcons. Wilds totaled 567 yards and three touchdowns on 123 carries in 2015. Also gone is Shon Carson, whose 5.7 yards per carry average ranked first among team’s running backs. The duo also totaled 21 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Nationally, South Carolina finished 88th with 154.67 yards per game. The team’s 11 rushing touchdowns was tied for 116th.
Returning from 2015
Denson rushed for close to 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season at LaGrange (Ga.) High School. After arriving to South Carolina in 2015, he was redshirted.
Most of Turner’s senior season in high school was lost to a wrist injury. Like Denson, Turner — a former 3-star recruit — was redshirted during his first season with the Gamecocks.
Williams was third on the team in rushing last season, totaling 299 yards on 86 carries. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, racked up 256 yards on 45 carries with two touchdowns.
The new guys
As a senior at AC Reynolds High School in Asheville, N.C., Dowdle rushed for 2,545 yards, passed for another 1,434 and accounted for 63 touchdowns. He scored 51 of those touchdowns on the ground. The final 247Sports Composite rankings listed him as the No. 25 running back in the Class of 2016.
Freeman capped an impressive career at Northern Guilford High School in Greensboro, N.C with 2,188 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior. For his career, he rushed for 5,899 yards and 70 touchdowns. According to the 247Sports Composite, he was ranked as the No. 36 running back in the class of 2016.
Preseason depth chart
Williams and Turner enter preseason camp listed first and second on the depth chart, respectively. The duo could potentially provide a nice one-two combination of power and speed. It certainly helps that they’ll be running behind a more experienced offensive line this fall than the one South Carolina fielded last season.
Of the first-year freshmen, Freeman arrived to campus in January, so he’s got a bit of a leg up on Dowdle. Either one of the two — if not both — could contribute as reserves behind Williams and Turner.
Exactly how things shape up behind those players will depend upon the performances during preseason camp.