College Sports

Get USC’s four-star running back commit in this spot, and it’s ‘like stealing’

When former DeMatha High School offensive coordinator Chris Grier got his hands on four-star tailback MarShawn Lloyd last spring, one thing immediately popped.

The new South Carolina football commit was working in 7-on-7 drills and showed a little extra in his toolbox.

“He really, really cannot be covered by a linebacker in any way out of the backfield,” Grier said. “It’s just a complete mismatch. Being able to do some different things with him out of the backfield, option routes, where he can kind of play off the leverage of linebackers, is like stealing.”

When Lloyd arrives in Columbia, there will be some expectation at least outside the program, for him to step in as a primary back of sorts.

The Gamecocks will be without three veterans and longtime contributors in Rico Dowdle, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner. With only three other backs on the roster, he could well be stepping into a position battle that’s wide open.

At 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, he’s not exactly built like a bellcow, but his running backs coach, Martin Gibson, thinks he’ll be ready for the role.

“He definitely can,” Gibson said. “We’ve used him a lot of times in our rotations.

“We’ve put more and more on his shoulders. This year being his senior year, I plan to put even more on his shoulder.”

Gibson, who doubles as Lloyd’s trainer, said the back can bench 405 pounds and puts up big squat numbers as well.

That receiving skill, blended with Lloyd’s powerful build, makes him something the Gamecocks are looking for: an every-down back. USC running backs coach Thomas Brown said the staff places a premium on that kind of versatility.

“He’s a guy that can play every down,” Grier said. “I think he’s a guy that can develop into a hell of a football player.”

The Gamecocks haven’t been shy about working their running backs into the passing game when needed.

South Carolina backs have averaged 42 catches for 289 yards per season under Will Muschamp. The number of overall catches has been falling a little each season, but the yardage actually went up last year.

USC spent a decent amount of time in its empty backfield package, splitting out tailbacks, and produced a fair number of big plays. Ty’Son Williams notably surpassed 100 receiving yards in a game, and Rico Dowdle was targeted often.

And soon enough USC will have a plus-option in that spot.

“Out of the backfield where he can run a wheel route or get out in the slot a little bit or even swing routes where we’ve got guys going deep,” Grier said. “If they’re covered, you can dump it off to him, he’s a problem.”