By Rixon Lane
The Gamecocks will enter 2014 with a dark horse Heisman candidate and several solid backup tailbacks in the backfield.
Mike Davis returns after rushing for 1,183 yards. Only George Rogers in 1980 and Marcus Lattimore in 2011 returned after running for more yardage. Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson have SEC experience, while David Williams is ready to hit the field after redshirting in 2013.
South Carolina will have plenty of talent to line up behind Dylan Thompson, but how will the backfield compare to the Gamecock rushing attacks of the past?
Here's a look at the best South Carolina backfields and the numbers they racked up on the ground:
10. 2011 (Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw, Kenny Miles, Brandon Wilds, Stephen Garcia)
With a pair of mobile quarterbacks, one of the most accomplished tailbacks in school history in the starting role and two hard-nose backups in the rotation, the Gamecocks rushed for 2,497 yards. South Carolina ran for over 250 yards four different times and scored 28 touchdowns on the ground.
9. 2013 (Mike Davis, Connor Shaw, Pharoh Cooper, Shon Carson, Brandon Wilds)
Mike Davis was in his first year as a true starter, Connor Shaw was a seasoned scrambling veteran, and a newcomer named Pharoh Cooper helped give the Gamecocks a spark out of the Wildcat. South Carolina ran for 2,580 yards on the season and had a streak of six consecutive games with multiple rushing touchdowns.
8. 1978 (George Rogers, Johnnie Wright, Spencer Clark, Steve Dorsey)
With Rogers as a sophomore tailback and Johnnie Wright as an outstanding second option, the Gamecocks never completed more than 10 passes during a game during the entire season. Clark and Dorsey rounded out the backfield as South Carolina rushed for 2,688 yards that year, piling up 455 in the final win of the season against Wake Forest.
7. 1977 (George Rogers, Johnnie Wright, Spencer Clark, Steve Dorsey, Ron Bass)
Spencer Clark paced the team with 777 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while freshman George Rogers tallied 623 yards on the ground. As a team, the Gamecocks rushed for 2,809 yards and 23 touchdowns, including six in a 42-19 win over Miami (Ohio). Quarterback Ron Bass added 117 yards on the year.
6. 1984 (Thomas Dendy, Kent Hagood, Quinton Lewis)
Led by Thomas Dendy, who averaged nearly six yards per carry during his career, the Gamecocks ran for 2,861 yards during a magical 10-win season. South Carolina recorded multiple rushing touchdowns in each of its first 11 games, including five in a road win against Notre Dame.
5. 1973 (Jeff Grantz, Jay Lynn Hodgin, Randy Spinks, Ron Bass)
Quarterback Jeff Grantz had his finest rushing season as a Gamecock and tailback Jay Lynn Hodgin led the team with 862 yards as South Carolina ran for 2,901 yards. After scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground during the first seven games of the season, the Gamecocks scored 18 in the final four games, rushing for over 280 yards in each contest.
4. 1979 (George Rogers, Percy Reeves Spencer Clark, Steve Dorsey)
With Johnnie Wright redshirting, Rogers became the main cog in the Gamecock rushing attack. He rushed for 1,681 yards, then a school record, as the team tallied 2,987 yards on the ground. Against Duke, South Carolina ran the ball 81 times for 397 yards and five touchdowns. The Gamecocks scored 25 rushing touchdowns on the season.
3. 1974 (Ron Bass, Jay Lynn Hodgin, Jeff Grantz, Kevin Long, Clarence Williams)
Jay Lynn Hodgin led the team with 941 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry on the season, the sixth-highest average in school history at the time. Quarterback Ron Bass also set a Gamecock record, rushing 39 times in a win over North Carolina. As a team, South Carolina ran for 3,008 yards and 25 scores.
2. 1975 (Kevin Long, Clarence Williams, Jeff Grantz, Tom Amrein, Randy Chastain)
South Carolina had never had a 1,000-yard rusher, but Kevin Long and Clarence Williams both eclipsed that mark in 1975. Long led the team with 1,133 yards, a school record at the time, while, while Williams tallied 1,073 yards. Both ran the ball 190 times on the year. The Gamecocks rushed for 3,198 yards as a team, including 458 in a 56-20 win over Clemson.
1. 1980 (George Rogers, Johnnie Wright, Percy Reeves, Carl West)
George Rogers broke his own school record, rushing for 1,894 yards on his way to the Heisman Trophy. The Gamecocks ran for 3,397 yards, topping the 400-yard mark in three games. Against Wichita State, South Carolina accumulated 430 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns.