South Carolina football: Can Kevin Harris win Maxwell Award

South Carolina running back Kevin Harris (20) rushes in for a touchdown.Gw43033
South Carolina running back Kevin Harris (20) rushes in for a touchdown.Gw43033 /

South Carolina football RB named preseason candidate.

Kevin Harris was overlooked a bit last year despite leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing throughout the regular season. The Gamecock ball carrier eclipsed 1,100 yards and added 15 touchdowns to boot. Still, Harris was snubbed for first-team all-conference honors.

The team’s lack of success during the course of the year probably added to Harris’s being overlooked, but one could also argue that it made the back’s accomplishments that much more impressive. The Gamecocks had absolutely no passing game, allowing opposing defenses to key in on the offense’s best player. Even with opponents knowing what was coming, Harris notched five 100-yard games, including a 243-yard, five-touchdown contest versus Ole Miss.

Now, Harris gets his chance to make his name known. He’s been nominated as one of 80 NCAA athletes for the 2021 Maxwell Award, given annually to college football’s top player.

Does he have a shot at winning the prestigious honor?

Why he will win

Harris is the leading returning rusher in college football’s best conference. He’ll be the focal of the South Carolina offense, and if he matches the production from last year, Harris should finish near the top of NCAA’s rushing rankings yet again.

Just two players in the nation return after outgaining Harris on the ground last season, a campaign in which he set a school record for yards per carry. He has his eyes set on becoming the first Gamecock since George Rogers to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and he should see ample opportunities in South Carolina’s new look offense.

Why he won’t win

While Harris posted fantastic numbers in his sophomore campaign, he could see a teammate or two cutting into his carries. Former five-star rusher MarShawn Lloyd is looking to return from an ACL injury and make his first impacts in Columbia. ZaQuandre White, Rashad Amos, and others could make a case for playing time in the running back rotation, too. While it’s a good problem for the Gamecocks to have, and could help Harris stay fresh as the year rolls on, splitting carries could hurt his overall stat line.

Also working against him is the fact that 17 of the last 21 Maxwell winners were quarterbacks. Just two players since 2000 took home the award as running backs, with the last being Derrick Henry in 2015. Quarterback is viewed as the most important position on the field, and when it comes to looking for the nation’s top player, voters automatically turn to the signal callers. It’s definitely something that Harris will have to overcome in order to take home the award.

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