South Carolina fans have been clamoring for two years for Raheim “Rocket” Sanders. While it looks like the Gamecocks are in a good position to get Sanders, they also need to take a second running back. In the event that Sanders goes elsewhere, Shane Beamer should still take two portal running backs. The good news is that there are options for the Gamecocks in this position. Other pressing areas of need are defensive tackle and wide receiver. Those recruiting conversations do not present as many quality options at this point. The top Gamecocks running back targets not named Sanders are Oscar Adaway III, Elijah Green, and Jawarn Howell. Here’s a deeper look at each one.
North Texas transfer Adaway is looking to play his sixth year of college football in 2024. After a redshirt freshman season, he also had his 2021 season taken away due to injury. He averaged five-and-a-half yards per carry throughout his career and had a career-high six touchdowns on the ground in 2023. Adaway also possesses the ability to line up in the slot and become a significant mismatch for linebackers in space. He relies on his speed to bounce runs outside when met in the hole by a defender; however, this does not seem to be a lack of toughness. Adaway also cuts back through the teeth of the defense when blocking sets up for him to reverse field. Overall, his use of downfield blocking stands out.
If Adaway comes to play for the Gamecocks, receivers blocking downfield will go a long way. He allows blocking to develop and runs behind his guys. Adaway can make defenders miss but he seems to prefer north and south running. One commentator described him as a “sports car weaving through heavy traffic” as he navigated the second and third levels of the opposing defense. Given the opportunity, Adaway can provide production in the SEC. He projects to be a quality change-of-pace runner who can also get it done on first down.
Looking to play his fifth year of college football, Green is transferring from North Carolina, a school the Gamecocks faced this season. Over the course of his career, he averages a little more than four yards per carry, although he did not play significant time in 2023. His biggest year was 2022, in which he reached the end zone eight times. The upside with Green is his speed and relatively fresh legs. For a fifth-year guy, the miles on his legs are low. So, he brings experience as a college athlete and Power 5 level talent. On the flip side, there are questions about why he was passed over at North Carolina this season. He did have some injury issues, and the Tar Heels had a crowded room.
If Green becomes a Gamecock, he will certainly get more carries than what he had in Chapel Hill. Look for him to be used out of the backfield as well to maximize his speed and ability to hit the home run. Interestingly enough, although Green is the only back of these Gamecocks running back targets that have played Power 5 football, he may be the weakest prospect in the group.
At 6-1 and 215 pounds, Howell is the biggest of the three backs listed in this breakdown. He is also the least experienced. The former South Carolina State Bulldog just completed his true freshman season, appearing in seven games. Howell projects as the best back of these three. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Speed was on display with runs over 80 yards and a reception that he took 90 yards in 2023. He is a patient runner and allows holes to open. Not often did a single tackler get this big back to the ground. Howell averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 95 yards per game. Like Adaway, he uses downfield blocking well and showed quality vision. The freshman scored nine times on the ground and caught two touchdowns as well.
Howell can be a starter for South Carolina. The best-case scenario would be to acquire him and Sanders. Two big backs who can run through defenders but also possess the speed to elude them. If the Gamecocks do not get Sanders, Howell should be priority number one. He is a Mooresville, NC native and played his freshman season in college just down the road from Columbia. He is also projected to have the longest contribution to the Gamecocks. As a true sophomore, Howell could not transfer again without sitting out a year. So, the Gamecocks could develop him for a couple of seasons before the risk of losing him to the NFL Draft or as a graduate transfer.
Stay tuned as the Gamecocks running back targets become commitments either in Columbia or elsewhere.