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October 2, 2013
Just as Marcus Lattimore's season-ending knee injuries allowed running room for freshman tailbacks to emerge in 2011 and 2012, Brandon Wilds' dislocated elbow in the UCF game might have opened up the door for another true freshman. In steps David Williams, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Philadelphia, Pa., who just became South Carolina's third option at running back.
The former four-star recruit was told this week he will suit up for the first time in his career Saturday against Kentucky, just two months after entering fall camp in the midst of a six-tailback competition for playing time.
"I was just so excited about it. I even called my mom and told her," said Williams after practice Wednesday. "She was excited. She said to just take advantage of the opportunity."
It's not certain the coaches will play him this season, using his redshirt as they did Mike Davis' a year ago. But Williams said he has worked hard to prepare himself if the coaches look past the second string for help in the running game.
"I've been working hard this week and since camp trying to get better everyday," Williams said.
Along with Jamari Smith, Williams was one of two freshman running backs entering fall camp at the bottom of an already-packed depth chart. Smith made the switch to defensive back during fall camp, but Williams worked his way up past redshirt freshman Kendric Salley and into the fourth spot on the depth chart.
"I knew when I came in I was going to be at the bottom," Williams said. "I had to work my way up."
Williams had come to terms with the possibility of redshirting, but running backs coach Everette Sands said the severity of Wilds' injury has made it probable that the freshman will play this year.
Sands said it's ultimately head coach Steve Spurrier's decision. Sands said he is working to get Williams game-ready, but that he plans to lean heavily on Davis and Shon Carson in the near future.
Sands compared Williams' current situation to Davis' a year ago. Davis used his redshirt to rush for 275 yards and two touchdowns last season, but he didn't understand the offense until the following spring, Sands said. While Williams has been impressive running the ball in practice, he needs to improve his pass blocking to see significant playing time moving forward, Sands said.
"With the ball in his hands, there's never been a doubt in my mind he can get it done," Sands said. "It's the other things when the ball's not in his hands. Pass blocking is a major concern. It's not just physically doing it, but recognizing who he has (to block) as well. At times it's really different in a practice situation than it is in a game situation. That's the big question mark for him."
Williams also likens his running style to Davis'. The freshman said he can match some of Davis' and Wilds' physical skills, but that he is just a year behind them experience-wise. Williams said he still has plenty to learn from Davis, in particular.
"He's a shifty back," Williams said, smiling. "I'm trying to get my moves like his."
Williams said there's no set number of carries he'll need to justify burning his redshirt, but that he wants to capitalize if he does get to play.
"I don't want to put a number on my carries," Williams said. "I just want to take advantage of every carry I get. If I have five carries for 100 yards, that's good with me."
"If I get in, I'm going to give it 110 percent," Williams said.
Williams' coach shared his optimism.
"I'm sure he's going to do a great job when he gets the opportunity," Sands said.
- Reviewing UCF, Part 2:
South Carolina NEWS