South Carolina came into the season with a lot of questions at the running back spot. It looks like they’ll finish the season in a similar position.
The Gamecocks are down to just two scholarship running backs as they get ready to play their final two regular-season games against Kentucky and Clemson. USC (4-6) needs to win both games to become bowl-eligible.
Juju McDowell was the latest tailback to go down with an injury when he left Saturday’s 47-6 win against Vanderbilt with a broken collarbone. Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer said McDowell will miss the rest of the season.
The USC coach also wasn’t optimistic that Dakeroon Joyner, a former quarterback who moved to running back this year, would return for Kentucky. He didn’t speculate about a possible return for the Clemson game. Joyner suffered an ankle injury against Jacksonville State last week.
The injuries leave Newberry College transfer Mario Anderson and freshman Djay Braswell as the only two scholarship backs left on the roster — a fact not lost on Beamer in the game’s waning moments Saturday.
“On that last drive, I told (running backs coach) Montario Hardesty to get Mario out of the game and Braswell out of the game,” Beamer said. “We are in a critical situation from that standpoint. Bradley Dunn is a guy we have confidence in, and DJ Twitty is a guy we have confidence in.
Dunn, a walk-on who played locally at Hammond School, finished the game at running back.
“If we can continue to throw like we did today for 350 yards, that will help,” Beamer said. “But we’ve got to be smart and make sure we are getting our best guys on the field. It is a challenge.”
It’s a challenge that Anderson, the former Division II standout, is up for to end the season. The Summerville native had 103 yards on Saturday, with a majority coming on his 72-yard touchdown where he ran through six Vanderbilt tacklers. Anderson leads the team with 645 yards rushing in 10 games.
Braswell was a four-star prospect coming out of high school and former state champion in the 200 meters. He looked good in spurts as he saw time for the second straight game after not playing since Furman on Sept. 19.
The Georgia product had a 30-yard reception Saturday and also ran the ball five times.
“We have complete faith in everyone in the running back room and we all play the game for each other,” Anderson said. “So praying for Juju and DK. And we are going to finish the thing for those boys.”