College Sports

Boyd, Davis give Gamecocks needed one-two punch

COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier has shouted at, prodded and criticized every member of his football team during preseason camp, telling them their blocking, catching, passing et al., isn't near good enough to be competitive in the SEC.

Except Cory Boyd and Mike Davis. The duo seems to be coated with Teflon the way their names are always absent from the head ball coach's laundry list of complaints.

They're hoping the coating sticks as the tailback tandem attempts to pace South Carolina's offense this season.

"This year, I just want to do what exactly the coaches have taught me," said the talkative Boyd, surrounded three-deep by cameras. "Other than that, try to impart some leadership to the young guys. This is my last year, sad to say, but I got to go and hopefully, when I leave, I can leave a part of me with some of these younger guys."

Never one to design an offense around a running back, Spurrier was handed a gift last year when Davis showed up light years away from the timid freshman he was in 2005 and Boyd returned from a year-long suspension. Boyd, the taller and more physically imposing of the two, was athletic enough to cut through the defense, but Davis, thanks to a rigorous training regimen with strength coach Mark Smith, was a 5-foot-9 chunk of corded muscle, perfect for staying low to the ground at the goal line.

The two combined for 1,297 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns last year, Boyd adding 406 yards and two more scores on the receiving end. Even though each missed time with various injuries, they managed to stand out as a solid offensive weapon despite playing in Spurrier's beloved pass-happy approach.

With the offense again in flux -- without do-it-all Syvelle Newton to depend on and quarterback Blake Mitchell in and out of the doghouse -- Boyd and Davis have been the workhorses of the summer. They've mostly been sitting out of the scrimmages (no sense using really important guys in a meaningless scrum), but they're still drawing Spurrier's praise.

"Cory Boyd and Mike Davis are two of the best running backs in the country on one team, I really believe that," Spurrier said at his media golf outing. "Seems like the trend nowadays that if you've got two of them, you play both of them."

Spurrier wouldn't say if he'd be ditching his usual spread offense for a two-head backfield or perhaps go to some of Arkansas' formations, like putting a tailback in to take the snap and running the option. There's no point detailing the playbook when it's still six days before the Sept. 1 season-opener.

But rest assured, Boyd and Davis will get their touches Saturday when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to town. They're two of the only positions (outside of receiver Kenny McKinley) who are locked onto the offensive depth chart.

"Cory's a little more agile, I'm more kind of like a downhill runner," said Davis, low-key as usual. "He helps me, I help him. We go into a game, they can't expect just one runner."

The two backs helped pace an inconsistent offense last year, one that jelled behind a rebuilt offensive line midseason and benefited from Newton's scrambling. When Mitchell returned and Newton's feet were no longer an option, Boyd and Davis shouldered the load with a combined 579 yards and eight touchdowns over the final five games.

Running behind another questionable line and splitting carries again this year, the two prepared by increasing their offseason workouts. It came in handy when the team's third-string tailback, Bobby Wallace, was knocked out with a broken collarbone.

Behind Wallace, the team lists Taylor Rank and freshman Brian Maddox. The lack of depth has pushed Boyd and Davis harder to stay healthy.

"We know exactly what we got to do," Boyd said. "I told him to push me, and I'm going to push him and Brian, and we're all going to push each other, and we're going to have a good backfield this year."

The two describe their relationship off the field as kind of-sort of big brother-little brother, although Davis said they don't hang out all the time. It's a friendly battle of constant one-upmanship.

"I spoke to him knowing that Brian Maddox came in and said, 'Don't let that young guy push you too much," joked Boyd. "And he say, 'Don't let that young guy push your old self too much."

But otherwise they're cut from the same mold. They each want to be the first running backs to really make a name for themselves in Spurrier's air-it-out offense, and they each see characteristics of the other when they look in the mirror.

"I'll see what he do, he'll see what I do, we'll work it like that," Davis said. "Like in practice, we really work each other. I work him, he works me, try to make each other better."

"We have a good stable of running backs out here, with the coaches and the weight room ... we have our talent and anything's possible," added Boyd, before stressing it was his last chance to reach a championship. "Hopefully, this year we can do it; if not, there's more years for Brian Maddox and Mike Davis to go out there and do what they do.

"Hopefully we can get it done."