Nightmares come in different shapes and sizes. For some it’s a scene from a scary movie. For others it's falling and waking up when they hit the ground. For the South Carolina defense, it seems like it would be the nightmare where they’re running to catch something but it keeps getting farther away.
While the team is only two weeks in, the Gamecocks have surrendered 415 yards on the ground, including 207 Saturday in a 26-22 defeat to Kentucky.
The team’s Achilles heel Saturday came in the form of Stanley “Boom” Williams, a human bowling ball, walking nightmare stuffed into a 5-foot-9, 196-pound body.
Williams dashed up and down the field for 107 yards on 14 carries and backup Jojo Kemp (the guy who ran for 131 yards in last year’s nightmarish 45-38 loss) totaled 78 yards on 13 carries.
All three of Kentucky’s touchdowns were rushing: Williams and Kemp had one apiece and quarterback Patrick Towles rushed for another.
After surrendering an average of 207.5 yards per game rushing, the Gamecocks rank 103 in the nation in rush defense and 13 in the SEC, ahead of only Kentucky (221 yards per game).
Now to the Gamecocks’ credit, they have played some pretty good backs. Williams ranks in the top 20 in the country for rushing yards this season and North Carolina’s Elijah Hood ranks fifth in the ACC in rushing yards with 194.
But the onslaught of talented running backs doesn’t end after Week 2 for South Carolina. Here we’re going to rank the best running backs the Gamecocks will face the rest of the season.
10. Taj McGowan, Central Florida
Central Florida has taken a few steps back since they almost upset South Carolina two years ago, especially on offense. There is no real distinct starter in the backfield, but McGowan has been the most productive, running for 70 yards on 20 carries.
9. Ish Witter, Missouri
Witter is the running back with the most yards on his team but not the team’s leading rusher. Quarterback Maty Mauk holds that distinction with 106 yards so far. Witter is not far behind with 100 yards on 25 carries, but Missouri’s pass-happy offense limits what Witter can do.
8. Wayne Gallman, Clemson
Gallman’s had two good games against vastly inferior opponents to start the season, rushing for 171 yards on 15 carries. But it’s the Deshaun Watson show in the Upstate, and that can really limit what running backs are allowed to do. Gallman could be very good, but it’ll take a couple big games against FBS opponents before we can say definitely.
7. The Citadel
What’s the saying? If you got two quarterbacks, you ain’t got one. The same doesn’t hold true for running backs. The Bulldogs have three running backs: Evan McField, Isiaha Smith and Vinny Miller—all who have rushed for over 100 yards this season. The running back by committee mentality could be hard for the Gamecocks to defend, since each can hurt you.
6. Kelvin Taylor, Florida
Kelvin Taylor is the go-to guy for the Gators and rightfully so. The talented back is rushing for nearly 5 yards a pop, amassing 118 yards already this season on 24 attempts. A speedy SEC back, Taylor can cause some problems.
5. Tra Carson, Texas A&M
Carson is just like Taylor—a speedy back that can bust the long run. Carson has more yards than Carolina’s leading rusher Brandon Wilds; 165 compared to Wilds’ 159. Carson also has two touchdowns and a rush of 30 yards to his name.
4. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
I know what you’re thinking, and no Vanderbilt is not a typo. While Vandy is still, well, Vandy, Webb is the bright spot on that team. Webb set records for rushing yards for a freshman in a season last year with 907 and hasn’t let up this year. He leads the team with 152 yards rushing on 43 carries, and will be a major player this year since he’s one of the only weapons on the team.
3. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
The all-around playmaker for the Vols, Hurd can hurt you coming out of the backfield. He ranks fifth in the SEC in rushing yards with 249 yards, and he leads the team with four touchdowns. He is a lighting-quick back that can really make poorly disciplined defenses pay.
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
Fournette’s downhill speed and force is so big I’m not entirely sure he wasn’t a bowling ball with rockets taped to it in a previous life. The back can bounce off defensive linemen or leave safeties in his dust. That powerful combo has given him 168 yards on 23 carries and he leads the team in touchdowns with three.
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
If you’re not familiar with Nick Chubb, I would look up some highlight film because the Gamecocks will try and corral him Saturday at Georgia. Chubb is a monster running back who made the Bulldog faithful forget about last year’s Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley almost immediately after Chubb took his first handoff in red and black. He leads the SEC with 309 yards rushing and is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. The dude is a beast and is on the shortlist for this year’s Heisman.