David Williams' primary goal upon arrival at South Carolina was to contribute, and this Saturday, he could get his first chance.
USC's rushing game floundered last Thursday in the Gamecocks' 52-28 loss to Texas A&M, as 22 carries led to a measly 67 yards. Head coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that USC would place more emphasis on the ground game this Saturday when the Gamecocks take on East Carolina.
"Yeah, we need to get David out there," Spurrier said. "We've told David that he's going to carry the ball some, so he is. He'll be out there."
Williams, who rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Imhotep Carter High School, had expected to hear those words as a true freshman.
But the Gamecocks' depth at running back led him to redshirt last fall; the coaching staff wanted to avoid wasting a year of his eligibility as long as Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson could shoulder the load.
"It's hard to rotate four running backs," Spurrier said.
Williams made the most of it, using the year to get familiar with the playbook and adjust to the speed of the college game, impressing his coaches and teammates along the way.
"David looks good; David is also ready," said redshirt junior tailback Brandon Wilds." "We're all ready. David has been working in the weight room and mentally he's gotten better, knowing the plays, and the defensive schemes as well."
Williams thought he would have played last week against Texas A&M, but said he understands why his number wasn't called as USC turned to the passing game to try to catch up to the Aggies.
Williams was ecstatic when the coaching staff told him to be ready to play Saturday night.
"I'm so excited," Williams said after practice Wednesday. "I've been waiting for this time since I've been here. I'm ready."
Williams doesn't know how much the coaches plan to use him or when he'll see his first action, but said he plans to make every carry count. Rather than let the nerves get to him this week, Williams said he's enjoying the buildup to what looks to be his first college game. The 6-foot-1, 214-pound back said he's embraced the expectations and wants to "do what I do, what got me here" on Saturday.
"It's been great; I've been coming out here playing like I'm in the game," Williams said. "The tempo at practice has picked up like crazy. I'm just ready to get the opportunity."
The Gamecocks have lined up in more power-running formations than usual in practice this week, Williams said, adding that he thinks that's indicative of USC's offensive gameplan for ECU.
Williams said the offensive line wants to make a statement by pushing the Pirates around on Saturday, and that he'll feel comfortable running behind it in any formation.
"I've been running the power-I my whole life, so I'm pretty familiar with it," Williams said. "That's what I'm most comfortable in, but if we run zone, I'm ready."
Williams is counting down the minutes until the Gamecocks kick off, but said he isn't just excited for his own performance. He expects USC's tailbacks to run wild against the Pirates, a team that finished 13th in the country in rushing defense a season ago.
"I've got a feeling we're going to turn up this week," he said.
--- Williams said junior tailback Mike Davis has looked like "his normal self" since returning to practice.
--- Williams said his early injury troubles at USC were "kind of depressing," but that he is happy to be healthy now.
"I never really got hurt, never really had any injuries during my whole career playing football, so when I experienced injuries here, it kind leaned on me," Williams said.
--- Williams said practices have been much more fast-paced this week.
"It's helping us get conditioned and be prepared for when we get out there on Saturday," he said.
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