Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds sharing role of replacing South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore

Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds sharing role of replacing South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore

September 3rd, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier talks with reporters during the SEC football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

South Carolina running back Mike Davis (28) carries the ball for short yardage during the first half of last Thursday's season-opening win over North Carolina. Davis and the Gamecocks play Georgia this Saturday.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Replacing South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore is no easy task, which is why Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier never felt the need to burden one individual with the assignment.

In last Thursday's season opener, Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds shared the load in a 27-10 victory over North Carolina. The two sophomores combined for 179 yards, and Spurrier believes there is no need to change that dynamic now.

"I think they're both very capable," Spurrier said. "We told both of them that somebody's going to start but that both of them would play, and that's how it turned out. I think they both had 12 carries on a hot, muggy night, and they'll both continue to play. If one is really hot and making stuff happen for us, he'll probably play a little more."

Davis racked up 115 yards on his 12 carries, with a chunk of that coming on a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that snapped the Gamecocks out of an offensive lull. The 5-foot-9, 215-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia got the start and had a 12-yard carry on the second play that helped set up a 65-yard touchdown pass from Connor Shaw to Shaq Roland on the ensuing snap.

Wilds, a 6-2, 223-pounder from Blythewood, S.C., had 64 yards and also had a 12-yard gain.

"Splitting carries with Brandon Wilds is good for both of us," Davis said. "We don't have to take as much pounding. I think we're able to come in and show different styles."

Davis is the younger brother of former Clemson tailback James Davis, who led the Tigers in rushing all four seasons from 2005 to '08. In his final three years at Clemson, Davis teamed with C.J. Spiller to form a tandem dubbed "Thunder and Lightning."

Could such a moniker be created down Interstate 26 in Columbia?

"My speed shows for itself," Davis said. "Some people probably thought I was slow, and I just wanted to show my talents. Brandon is a big guy and a hard runner and has breakaway speed, so I think you can call us both 'Thunder and Lightning.'"

Davis and Wilds entered this season with some experience at taking over for Lattimore, who shredded Georgia with 467 yards in his three wins over the Bulldogs before leaving early for the NFL. Wilds signed in 2011 and was the fifth-string tailback entering that season but vaulted to the starting role following injuries to Lattimore (knee), Shon Carson (ankle), Kenny Miles (wrist) and Eric Baker (ankle).

Wilds was sensational in his fill-in opportunity for the first Gamecocks team to win 11 games, rushing for 137 yards against Tennessee, 120 against Florida and 109 against The Citadel. A high-ankle sprain knocked him out of last season, so it was up to Miles and Davis to shoulder the load once Lattimore suffered a second season-ending ACL injury.

Davis had 13 carries for 53 yards against Arkansas and 12 for 43 against Clemson as South Carolina won 11 games again.

"I just saw two running backs the other night who looked like they had a really good ballgame," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "and when you have a quarterback who can run, it causes a lot of trouble. Stopping the run, or at least slowing it down, is going to be huge for us."

Said Davis: "We wanted to come out and compete and show the world what we can do. Now it's UGA. It's a hometown game. I've already had guys calling me and telling me they're going to beat us. I'm showing all my emotions this game."

Odds and ends

Georgia practiced Monday for 60 minutes in shorts. ... Bulldogs sophomore tailback Todd Gurley was named SEC offensive player of the week after rushing for 154 yards on 12 carries in the 38-35 loss at Clemson. ... Georgia freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd when asked Monday by reporters why he dropped to the ground in the first quarter a couple of plays after getting kicked in the privates: "I couldn't bear the pain anymore, so I just fell."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.