The leading rusher for South Carolina in 2023 is expected to enter the transfer portal. The Gamecocks appear to be losing Mario Anderson, who ran for 707 yards and three touchdowns in 2023. The D-II transfer earned more and more playing time as the season went on and took over the starting role about a third of the way into the year. He averaged just under five yards per carry when all was said and done. Anderson has a low center of gravity at 5-9 and 208 pounds and runs like a bowling ball. He bounces off tacklers and requires multiple defenders to get him to the ground. However, his bruising style does not eliminate him from having home run speed. Anderson ran for 72 and 75-yard touchdowns this season, both against SEC opponents.
With all that said, his game’s most impressive attribute is his forward lean. Successful backs can make positive yardage out of any situation. When hit hard by a defender screaming downhill or gang-tackled and stood up, Anderson could always lean forward from the point of contact and gain additional yardage. This allows him to avoid negative plays, for the most part. His increasingly active role in the South Carolina offense brought a decrease in negative plays on the offensive side.
Questions abound regarding Anderson’s departure. Does he have another lucrative offer for him and his family? Is he operating on bad advice? Or do Shane Beamer and his staff have a solid plan for running back for 2024 that would limit Anderson’s opportunities? Here’s a look at the top candidates to carry the ball for the Gamecocks next season.
Raheim “Rocket” Sanders is a transfer from Arkansas. The Gamecocks were among the top schools for Sanders coming out of high school. Over three seasons at Arkansas, Sanders rushed for 2230 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He only played six games in 2023 due to injury. He is priority number one in Columbia. If Beamer decides to part with running backs coach Montario Hardesty, look for Arkansas running backs coach, Jimmy Smith, to be the leading candidate to replace him.
Daylan Smothers is a Charlotte, NC native who just completed his freshman season at Oklahoma. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and earned North Carolina Player of the Year honors as a sophomore. Smothers only received 11 carries over four games this season, preserving his redshirt.
Running back is a high position of need in the portal for South Carolina. Losing Anderson is a blow for the Gamecocks, but it could be a sign of Beamer making some noise in the transfer portal once again.