The South Carolina football program has only been home to the Heisman Trophy once in school history. College football’s most prestigious award hasn’t been earned by a Gamecock since running back George Rogers won the trophy in 1980. Junior running back Mike Davis has the chance to become the second football player in school history to win the illustrious award.
What exactly wins you the Heisman if you’re one of college football’s elite players? Having a good season isn’t enough. Being a popular player isn’t enough. A Heisman winning season is one in which a player accomplishes great individual AND team success, while also garnering enough media attention. Here’s why I think Davis will have an impressive resume this season and win the Heisman.
Davis came into Columbia with the seemingly impossible task of replacing Marcus Lattimore. The Byrnes High School graduate had become a South Carolina legend by the end of his freshman season and is one of the most beloved Gamecock players in school history. Everyone expected Davis to be a fine back, but no one really expected him to become a star. He played sparingly his freshman season as he backed up Lattimore and Brandon Wilds. He came into his sophomore season with the chance to become the feature back, and he didn’t hesitate in establishing himself as the number one man.
The Gamecocks knew that Davis had truly arrived by the third quarter of the 2013 season opener. The Gamecocks were effectively handling the UNC Tarheels, but the game was still too close for comfort at the beginning of the second half. The Gamecocks were holding onto a 10 point lead and needed a spark to finish the game comfortably. Davis gave his team that and much more. The 5-foot-9, 223-pound back rumbled 75 yards for the clinching score and his breakout season was underway. The season continued to be successful for him as he finished with 11 touchdowns and 1,183 yards. He was slowed down by nagging injuries however, and his numbers would have been even more impressive if that hadn’t been the case. He averaged 125 yards a game during the first seven games of the season.
A healthy Davis is expected to have even more success in 2014. Staying injury-free is key for the junior. Davis will be the focal point of a South Carolina offense that has one of the best lines in the SEC. The Gamecocks are returning four starters including A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson, who are both grizzled veterans. Cann was named to the first-team All-American squad by Phil Steele and Robinson was listed as the third-most physical player in all of college football. Davis has the ability and the offensive line to have a phenomenal season. Individually all he needs to worry about is staying healthy. The rest will take care of itself.
The Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t always win the national championship, but that certainly doesn’t hurt. Jameis Winston erased all doubt he was college football’s best player by leading his team to an undefeated regular season. Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to success in its maiden season in the SEC. If Davis wants to win the Heisman, South Carolina will have to have another great year on the gridiron. The Gamecocks are geared for success, and much of it will be up to Davis and the run game. South Carolina has been picked to win the SEC East and return to Atlanta for the first time since 2010. The Gamecocks are coming off three 11-win seasons, and there is no reason Steve Spurrier can’t lead his team to the SEC Championship Game or even a place in the College Football Playoff.
Davis will lead an offense with a physical line, smart fifth-year quarterback and athletic receivers. The junior running back will be an awful match up for defenses, and the receivers will take enough attention away from the run game. The defense will be led by a nasty linebacker corps and will be ready to go. Big things are going to happen in Columbia, and Davis will be the center of it all.
Did Davis steal crab legs or pick up a supermodel girlfriend over the summer? No, he didn’t. Davis isn’t as famous as Manziel or Winston. The media doesn’t record his every move and leak it to TMZ. But the media does recognize his freakish athletic ability and talent. Davis is a third-team All-American according to Phil Steele and is on the second-team All-SEC squad. The media noticed his breakout season in 2013, and they are expecting big things for him this year. South Carolina’s television schedule also helps Davis in his quest to win the Heisman. South Carolina not only opens the 2014 season on Thursday August 28th, but the game is the first ever on the SEC Network. Everybody in the country with ESPN’s new baby will have their attention on Davis and the Gamecocks. Georgia visits Columbia in early September, and College GameDay may very well follow. Davis will have plenty of opportunities to impress on the big stage in 2014.
The individual potential is there. The championship potential is there. The media hype is already there. A healthy Davis and a bit of luck for the Gamecocks will see the Heisman Trophy returning back to Columbia. It all starts with Texas A&M.