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October 5, 2011

Wilds card: Freshman moving up



The semi-frustration was evident on his face, but after getting the ball, was met with a slight smile.

"I've been hearing that a lot," South Carolina's Brandon Wilds said. "How I'm a fullback. I'm a tailback, not a fullback."

He's had limited action, and limited production.

But has proved very valuable.

"We need to get Brandon Wilds out, maybe Eric Baker a little bit, in there," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're trying to get more players on the field. We've sort of stuck playing the same guys about the whole game and hopefully we can get more players out there involved in helping the team be more successful."

The Gamecocks' freshman tailback, considered a more-than-probable tailback when signed, has only rushed three times for 22 yards, and caught three passes for 21 yards in five games. Yet, he's considered to be a key to the future, as a top backup for Marcus Lattimore while Kenny Miles is out, and somebody who could get the ball much more as the offense gets re-designed.

As Connor Shaw takes the reigns of the Gamecocks' offense after the benching of flagging starter Stephen Garcia, USC is expected to emphasize the short passing game and running game much more going forward. Advantage, Wilds, the 6-foot-1 freshman out of Blythewood who has shown much more than a typical first signee so far.

Although he's had limited touches, Wilds has shown the ability to catch, slip the first tackler and rumble downfield. Too big to be taken down on the first hit and too elusive to be effectively covered by a defensive back, Wilds hasn't had eye-popping statistics but has had enough to win him the No. 2 job while Miles has been injured.

"I'm just trying to get on the field and do what I can do," Wilds said, after getting his first career catch, but having it called back due to holding, against Navy. "I was brought in to run the ball and that's what I want to do."

With the Gamecocks' offense struggling, Wilds may get his wish - or mission. USC, thus far, has been inconsistent in the passing game, and with the decision to start Shaw at quarterback, it seems likely that the Gamecocks will keep trying to throw high-percentage, short passes going forward.

They did that against Auburn early, but got away from it late, a 50-yard touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery apparently causing the sideline to think the passing woes were covered. Instead, USC's offense stalled after that, slipping into a familiar pattern of having a lot of talent on the field but not using it.

Spurrier knows that that can't continue if the Gamecocks are truly going to live up to the expectations placed upon them this season. Speed that is contained in the likes of Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, Ace Sanders, Wilds, Jeffery and Lattimore has to be exploited.

Wilds could see his number called more and more often this year, with it evident that USC won't seek a redshirt for him. A back that can run, catch, block and slip tackles with equal aplomb, he can't do any worse than what USC has been showing lately.

"I just want to do my part," he said. "Whatever that is, I just want to help the team win."

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