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Tavien Feaster Transfer Provides Boost to Gamecocks Running Backs

Tavien Feaster

The South Carolina Gamecocks offense took a solid step forward in the 2018 season. The bowl game debacle aside, there were positive signs throughout the season. However, inconsistencies hampered this team both through the air and in the run game. Coach Will Muschamp has a veteran team returning to navigate one of the nation’s toughest schedules, so improvements should be expected. The Gamecocks running backs need to find their footing early and do more to help carry the load.

Tavien Feaster Transfer Boosts Gamecocks Running Backs

South Carolina received an off-season boost to their ground game with the transfer of former Clemson Tiger Tavien Feaster. The senior will provide plenty of ability to go along with loads of big game experience. He averaged six yards per on 222 carries for his former team but saw his carries decline last season as Travis Etienne became a star. With his senior season approaching, he decided to move on for a greater opportunity.

Not often do players cross the lines in a rivalry, but Feaster will be moving from the orange to the garnet side. His 1,330 career yards rank second on his new team. None of the Gamecocks running backs have been able to take hold of the lead role in the backfield over the past few years. If Feaster hits the ground running, the grad transfer could cement himself as the number one option.

Numbers Can Lie

On paper, the South Carolina rushing attack performed pretty well in a season ago. Their top four ball carriers averaged 5.2 yards on 325 carries. The 153 yards per game was a 30-yard increase from the previous campaign. While there was an improvement, those number also don’t tell the full story. The Gamecocks running backs did do a solid job racking up yardage, but they often failed to grind out the tough yards. Far to often South Carolina was stopped on 3rd or 4th and short. Failing to convert on short yardage situations stalled out drives, broke any rhythm this team tried to achieve.

This running game needs to bring a bit more pop behind their pads. They have to be able to convert in short yardage situations. The improvement in the Gamecocks toughness and physicality is a necessity heading into the 2019 season. The numbers can look good on the surface, but if they can’t grind out the tough yards in crucial situations, the offense will sputter.

Senior-laden Lineup

Three of the top four ball carriers from 2018 return. Rico Dowdle, Mon Denson, and A.J. Turner will all look to finally take the lead role in their senior season. Dowdle is the most talented of the Gamecocks running backs, but his uneven performances can be frustrating. The Asheville native had three 100+ yard games a season ago but also had five games with 21 yards or less. Dowdle also had issues with his hands as a junior, with multiple fumbles and dropped passes. He has the ability to perform at a high level but has yet to sustain it.

Denson came on strong during the second half of the season, with two 100-yard games in the final six contests. The 5’10” 212 pound back is a straight line runner, with a surprising burst. If he hits the hole, he can usually eat up chunks of yards. However, Denson doesn’t have the evasiveness or top end speed of a big-time tailback. He finished 2018 with 432 yards and two scores.

Turner has been a reliable option in the backfield for three seasons now. After gaining over 1,000 yards in his first two years in Columbia, he saw his carries drop dramatically as a junior. Turner had double-digit carries in just one game in 2018, an 81-yard performance against the Florida Gators. He has 47 career receptions out of the backfield and is also a solid option in the return game. This spring, he cross-trained in the defensive backfield, so it is uncertain where he might line up this fall. The speedy tailback has proven he can produce when called upon, so he could still be a big factor in this offense.

Getting Tough

The Gamecocks running backs group has played a lot of football between them. They have each shown they can play at a high level at times. Whichever one of them can prove the reliability off their performance has a chance to make the lead role theirs. South Carolina faces a difficult path this fall. The importance of gaining the hard yards they often failed to get in 2018 will be even greater.  A productive ground game, especially in key situations, will go a long way in pushing this team to greater heights.

Main Photo Credit:

File Photo: CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 17: Safety Lummie Young IV #23 of the Duke Blue Devils tackles running back Tavien Feaster #28 of the Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

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