David Williams vs. Brandon Wilds in South Carolina backfield
South Carolina has an ideal dilemma in the backfield looking ahead to next season.
Will it be sophomore David Williams or senior Brandon Wilds who trots with the first-team offense against North Carolina?
The competition was fierce during spring practice, but it appears Williams — with a better understanding of the offense in his third season — has a slight edge heading into fall camp where the battle will last throughout August.
“Now when I line up, I am understanding where the lineman is going to block their person and where the cut is going to be,” Williams told The State last month. “This spring, I am just out here now. I know everything. I am just showing what I can do.”
Williams had four carries in Saturday’s spring game and worked with the first unit while Wilds caught two passes and played limited snaps. Running backs coach Everette Sands said last month that he plans on utilizing both this season with near equal carries and doesn’t want either player becoming the Gamecocks’ Marcus Lattimore-like workhorse.
You can bet one will create separation, however.
“We come out here every day just pushing each other to the limit,” Williams said. “This competition is making us better running backs.”
It was Wilds who decided on returning for another year after weighing his options and considering the NFL following South Carolina’s win in the Independence Bowl. It’s the first time in Wilds’ career that he has a chance to be ‘the guy’ after playing behind Lattimore and Mike Davis as a second-teamer.
He started spring practice as the Gamecocks’ No. 1 running back on the official depth chart.
“There’s a big running back competition and I respect Dave to the utmost,” Wilds said. “He reminds me of a great running back. We are coming out here competing every day.”
An inch shorter and six pounds lighter at 6-foot-1, 216, Williams has a speed edge over his veteran teammate and has the gamebreaker quality. He signed with the Gamecocks two years ago out of Philadelphia, Pa., as a can’t-miss back with several offers.
Eventually, this offense will be his to lead, but Wilds won’t go away quietly.
Wilds has fought off injuries to rush for 1,277 yards in three seasons, doing so in mop-up duty and as South Carolina’s change-of-pace option at times. He has posted four 100-yard games (three coming in 2011; redshirted in 2012) and his career highlight up to this point came in a win over Clemson during the 2013 campaign when he caught a 26-yard touchdown pass on a trick play from Pharoh Cooper with 3:44 left in the fourth quarter.
Both players pose different threats for a defense and the Gamecocks are lucky to have two of their caliber. When South Carolina wants to go downhill behind its new-look offensive line, Wilds could deliver. In need of a lightning strike? Calling Williams’ number wouldn’t be a bad idea.
This situation will play out in August, but at season’s end, both running backs will have similar contributions.