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October 30, 2013

Wilds back in action

Since sophomore tailback Brandon Wilds' injury in the second quarter of South Carolina's 28-25 win at UCF, Mike Davis has emerged as one of college football's best running backs, totaling 770 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in his past five games. But now that Wilds has recovered from the dislocated elbow that kept him out for over a month, he's aiming to make sure Davis doesn't get too comfortable as South Carolina's lone option at tailback.

After a four-week rehabbing process Wilds described as "painful," the sophomore from Blythewood, S.C., was back in pads for the first time Wednesday since the injury, engaging in a full-contact practice with the team.

Wilds and running backs coach Everette Sands had the Mississippi State game circled on their calendars as a possible return date for the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder. Wilds said after practice Wednesday he isn't yet 100 percent, but that he could carry the ball as many as 40 times Saturday against Mississippi State if the coaches need him to.

"I can do it all," said Wilds, who will play with an elbow brace still on his left arm when he returns.

"I've been out four weeks, so I'm ready to get back, ready to play," said Wilds, who tallied 215 total yards and two touchdowns in four games this season. "It feels good, feels great to be back. Back at Willy-B, back home."

But Sands said Wednesday that Wilds will play only in an "emergency situation" against the Bulldogs, and that Mike Davis, Shon Carson and Jamari Smith will continue to be his top three backs. Sands said he isn't worried about Wilds' ball security with the elbow brace, as Wilds has looked comfortable carrying the ball with either arm in practice. Still, the second-year coach said he would rather not rush the sophomore back into action.

"Hopefully we're not going to have to use him on Saturday," Sands said.

Wilds said he'll be ready Saturday to perform in any capacity. The tailback, who rushed for 486 yards and three touchdowns in relief of Marcus Lattimore as a freshman in 2011, said he worked hard during his rehab as well as over the offseason to prepare for a big role this season. Wilds said that preparation helped him quickly shake off any rust from missing practice.

"I kept my endurance up," Wilds said. "I've been in the best shape of my life this year, so I wanted to keep that up."

"Whatever the team needs, I'm here for," Wilds said.

Wilds' return renews a competition at running back with fellow sophomore Mike Davis, who has grown into the SEC's best tailback in Wilds' absence. Wilds was receiving as many as 15 touches a game before his injury, and he said Wednesday he will continue to compete with and push Davis for a larger share of the offense.

"Mike is good," Wilds said. "You know when I came here, I wanted to compete. That's why I came here when Marcus (Lattimore was here)."

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