Marcus Satterfield took a lesson in managing South Carolina’s running back rotation after the Gamecocks’ 40-13 loss to Georgia.
For one, USC’s first-year offensive coordinator has four capable tailbacks on the roster. Even still, the Gamecocks were held to 96 yards on 34 run attempts against Georgia, averaging 2.8 yards per rush.
Senior ZaQuandre White and 2020 SEC rushing leader Kevin Harris tied at the top with 31 yards apiece — but White took five carries, and Harris had 16. MarShawn Lloyd, a redshirt freshman getting into the college football rhythm after a preseason ACL tear last year, gained 19 yards on five carries. The Gamecocks’ mobile quarterback, Luke Doty, scrambled six times for 15 yards.
Who was missing from the latest rushing rotation? That would be running back Juju McDowell, the freshman who played a primary role in South Carolina’s close victory over East Carolina just a week before.
USC’s shifty 5-foot-9 tailback broke free on two explosive runs to set the Gamecocks up for a game-winning field goal on their last drive against the Pirates, and he brought a kickoff return back 63 yards not long before.
Satterfield told reporters Wednesday that he tried to get the ball to McDowell on multiple plays against Georgia.
It never happened. Satterfield hasn’t taken it lightly.
“Like two or three (plays), we’re trying to get the ball to him,” he explained. “Georgia did something that made the ball go away from him. You look up, Juju has no touches. That’s a complete failure on my part. It’s driving me nuts right now, so that’s never gonna happen again.”
For the Gamecocks’ meeting with Kentucky this week, Satterfield is focused identifying South Carolina’s main running back and ensuring he gets the majority of practice reps. Satterfield is also wanting to see a “change-up” tailback get consistent reps in practice.
“We can’t play with all four consistently,” Satterfield said. “It’s the ones that are working to put themselves in position to play in the game, and the rest of them will have roles within the game.”
Through their first three games of 2021, the Gamecocks’ four tailbacks have shared the workload at a notably even pace. Lloyd has taken 26 carries for 95 yards, McDowell has taken 23 touches 113 yards and Harris’ 23 attempts have gone 64 yards. White has taken the lowest number of carries (22) for the most yards (167).
Satterfield doesn’t think it’s beneficial to keep swapping out running backs. He said the position requires rolling in a rhythm, and he’s adamant on finding South Carolina’s best rusher to get the ball most often.
“(We have to) let him get established, let him get a feel for the game and let him get rolling,” Satterfield said. “We can’t just go four plays here, three plays here, four plays here, three plays here. And that’s one million percent on me. That’s a huge emphasis moving forward.”