Take the number of 6.1 yards per carry.
Yes, South Carolina’s total is inflated by bludgeoning an FCS opponent. But through five games, the Gamecocks still sit at eighth in the country in yards per carry.
That is from a team that spent last season wondering if it had the play-makers needed at that position. There’s a lot of credit going to the players, but new running backs coach Thomas Brown helps as well.
“Thomas has done an outstanding job,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said.
The Gamecocks will face Brown’s former employer and alma mater this week. Before making his way to Columbia, he spent the 2015 season in Athens and then the next three in Miami with former UGA coach Mark Richt.
Brown also had current Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart as his position coach in 2005. Smart recalled Brown as quiet and the hardest worker in the room.
Under Brown, veteran Rico Dowdle and newcomer Tavien Feaster have flourished. Dowdle is averaging 6.6 yards per carry on the way to 370 yards. Even without the FCS game, he’s at 6.1, on track for a career high.
Feaster has 290 yards at 5.8 per carry. Muschamp said through the offseason he wanted more moments of backs making plays in space, and they’ve delivered.
“Our running backs have had really good years and then a lot of that is their maturity,” Muschamp said. “But I think Thomas is coaching and he coaches them hard and he recruits his butt off. He’s been an outstanding addition to our staff.”
The short-term recruiting payoff has been four-star runner MarShawn Lloyd, currently the No. 44 player in the country in the 247Sports rankings. The Gamecocks are also after Pitt commit Henry Parrish, as they’ll need at least one more tailback in the 2020 class.
Brown was a solid tailback in his time as a player in Athens, posting 2,646 yards and 23 touchdowns. He led the Bulldogs in rushing yards twice, won an SEC title in 2005 and teamed up with current Gamecocks offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon (one of the top receivers on that team).
“I had a lot of respect for Thomas at Tucker High School,” Muschamp said. “Actually recruited him a little bit coming out of high school. ... But Thomas is a throwback. You know, he’s got that work ethic, toughness. He played that way and he coaches that way.”