Advertisement

South Carolina has two transfers leading the RBs this spring. ‘It’s a great opportunity’

After transferring to South Carolina from Division II Newberry College in 2023, Mario Anderson exploded onto the SEC scene and quickly earned the nickname “Super Mario” after leading the Gamecocks in rushing.

This year, transfers Oscar Adaway III (North Texas) and Jawarn Howell (South Carolina State) are hoping for similar results as running backs for the Gamecocks.

There’s only been so many USC running backs available to participate for spring practice. Most of them don’t have any experience playing in an SEC game.

The two most experienced backs, Raheim “Rocket” Sanders and Juju McDowell, have been sidelined with injuries this spring. McDowell participated the first two weeks, but hasn’t been back after a collarbone injury. Sanders, the highly-touted transfer from Arkansas, hasn’t been available as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

In an offseason where creating depth at running back has become a critical point, the smaller RB room is two-fold. On one hand, it’s difficult to get adjusted to two new, mature running backs leading the group from the sideline. On the other, the Gamecocks get to test out the skill set of some lesser-known transfers.

That’s where Adaway and Howell come in.

“It’s truly a blessing in disguise,” Adaway said.

The newest running backs have played catch-up since stepping foot on campus. They’re learning about the city, the school, getting integrated with South Carolina’s schedule and finding out their roles all at the same time.

Adaway and Howell are expected to help lead the small group of running backs in next week’s spring game, after already experiencing their first scrimmage on Saturday.

Whatever their initial assumptions they had about playing in the SEC has cemented into their new reality: show up, show out and do their best to impress running backs coach Maruqel Blackwell, run game coach Shawn Elliott, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and head coach Shane Beamer.

“This is everything I expected,” Howell said. “Just to work hard and compete for a spot and just learn, ultimately to get to the next level.”

The rest of the RB room, including Djay Braswell, are also experiencing an increased workload, which helps Adaway and Howell since they are adjusting to the physicality of SEC play.

Howell hasn’t experienced spring ball ever before. He joined South Carolina State in June, jumping right into summer workouts and training camp. It’s a welcome change, now that Howell has the opportunity to get acclimated before the regular season kicks off.

“It’s definitely helped me out a lot, getting prepared for the season,” Howell said. “It’s a great opportunity, and it’s just like a knowledge period for me, just dotting all of my i’s and crossing my t’s.”

The Gamecocks are still trying to let their receivers get experience at their natural position. Beamer said following Saturday’s first scrimmage he doesn’t have the intention of shifting additional players to the running back room, as he expects McDowell and Sanders to return by training camp in August.

“Maybe in time, sure,” Beamer said Tuesday afternoon. “I just mentioned wanting to get those receivers involved and getting the ball in their hands. So, like we’ve done in the past, we’ll be creative with how we do that going forward.”

And if there’s anything Adaway and Howell have learned through these three weeks of spring ball, versatility is key for their success. Knowing how to pass block, being able to create explosive runs — which Beamer said Adaway showed on Saturday — and participate in the passing game is what allows these two to stand out.

“It’s football at the end of the day,” Adaway said. “Just a faster pace, bigger guys because of the SEC. But you still have to go out there and play.”