COLUMBIA — South Carolina tailback Mike Davis felt last year he was falling behind SEC runners like Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and the Georgia duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Well, these days, it’s Davis who is out front – leading not only the guys in rushing that he entered the Southeastern Conference with, but the entire league.
The sophomore has 1,058 yards, becoming just the eighth player in Gamecocks’ history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.
Davis backed up South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore as a freshman and struggled to find carries even after Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s “Gur-Shall” and the Crimson Tide’s Yeldon were stealing SEC headlines.
“I came out and just wanted to establish myself, (saying) ‘Hey, I’m still here,’” Davis said.
Davis has made others outside the SEC take notice, too. He’s 12th in the country in rushing yards, with only two other underclassmen in fellow sophomores Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Kapri Bibbs of Colorado State in the group ahead of him.
“I’m aware that I’m the SEC’s leading rusher,” Davis says. “I take a lot of pride in that.”
Davis understands he’ll have some work ahead to stay out front when the 11th-ranked Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2 SEC) close out league play at home against Florida (4-5, 3-4). Despite the Gators’ four-game losing streak, they remain second in the SEC against the rush.
Davis has had seven contests with 100 or more this season.
In the two games Davis fell short, in wins over Vanderbilt and Missouri, he had his most productive receiving games: Davis was second on the team with 67 yards receiving against the Commodores and had 10 grabs for 99 yards at Missouri.
Davis had originally committed to Florida, before eventually signing with the Gamecocks.
Florida coach Will Muschamp was disappointed in Davis’ choice, but wished him well and is ready to gameplan against the highly effective back.
“I mean everybody makes their decisions on what they want to do, and Mike felt like South Carolina was a better opportunity for him,” Muschamp said.
Davis outplayed redshirt sophomore Brandon Wilds during preseason camp to take over for Lattimore as the Gamecocks’ top tailback and has kept it going ever since.