Aside from Jadeveon Clowney, most of the talk around South Carolina football revolves around replacing Marcus Lattimore on the field and his leadership off of it.
Lattimore’s backup Kenny Miles also graduated, leaving Mike Davis as the only experienced returner who saw any kind of serious game action from 2012’s squad.
But everyone seemingly forgets about Brandon Wilds.
Most forget, too, that South Carolina is 9-1 without Lattimore in his two different knee injuries, and losing Lattimore won’t be as big of an issue as most make it out to be.
Wilds burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2011, making a name for himself in Lattimore’s absence. In fact, Wilds totaled just 13 carries in the first seven games, but he was thrust into the lineup after Lattimore’s injury against Mississippi State.
And he delivered.
Wilds posted three 100-yard rushing games against Tennessee, Florida and The Citadel, and he rushed 107 times for 486 yards and three touchdowns in half a season.
Wilds is also an exceptional weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. He caught 15 passes for 136 yards as a freshman. Steve Spurrier and Connor Shaw could always count on Lattimore as a receiver and a reliable weapon out of the backfield; that’s part of the reason he was so talented, diverse and just a pure football player.
After missing last season with a high ankle sprain, Wilds returns and immediately heads the depth chart with Mike Davis. Kendric Salley, Shon Carson and David Williams should also see carries next fall, helping keep Wilds fresh for an entire season.
The 6-2, 220-pound back has already proven he’s more than capable of becoming a leader in the backfield, and he was one three-star prospect who more than lived up to his ranking even in his first college season.
Wilds’ body type is very similar to Bama’s TJ Yeldon and LSU’s Alfred Blue – a taller, more physical back capable of getting tough yards and being an every down complete package.
Wilds will still have to keep improving on his pass blocking. Lattimore and Miles were both strong pass blockers, and Miles eventually beat out Wilds at the end of his freshman season because he was the more reliable blocker.
Either way, South Carolina’s backfield is set with the return of Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis, especially after adding Salley, Carson and Williams in the mix.
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