South Carolina Football’s GOAT Series: Top-15 Greatest Running Backs of All-Time

South Carolina football's running back Rico Dowdle. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football's running back Rico Dowdle. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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The SEC has a rich history of excellent running backs, and the South Carolina football program has had its fair share of elite rock toters. Even prior to entering the conference in 1992, the Gamecocks relied heavily on the ground game. With a talented incoming recruiting class that includes highly-regarded back DJay Braswell and an even better class expected in 2024, maybe a new name could be added to this list in the near future.

Honorable Mentions

Mike Davis: The original Mike Davis (2005-2008) was a freshman on Steve Spurrier’s first team in Columbia and became a contributor immediately. A bruising back who was also a good receiver out of the backfield, Davis finished his career with almost 3000 yards from scrimmage despite spending most of his career in a timeshare with Cory Boyd. The “OG” as he is affectionately known by some Gamecock fans, rushed for over 100 yards against Clemson as a freshman and scored two touchdowns against the Tigers as a sophomore in 2006.

Andrew Pinnock: A combo running back and fullback, Andrew Pinnock (1999-2002) was a touchdown machine for the Gamecocks. Pinnock is fourth on the all-time rushing touchdown list at the University of South Carolina. Pinnock was a load to bring down for defensive players and routinely performed best late in games after he had worn down the defense. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers and had a six-year NFL career.

Johnnie Wright: George Rogers’ backup for most of his collegiate career, Johnnie Wright (1977-1981) was a good back in his own (W)right. Despite playing behind Rogers for so long, he still managed to score 16 touchdowns for the Gamecocks. After leaving the University of South Carolina, Wright followed his backfield-mate Rogers to the NFL where he had a short stint with the Baltimore Colts.

Ryan Brewer: Ryan Brewer (1999-2002) did a little bit of everything for the Gamecocks as a running back, fullback, receiver, and returner for Coach Lou Holtz. Known for his toughness and receiving acumen, he did whatever his team needed him to do to win. An Ohio native, Brew almost never lit up the box score, but he saved his best performance for Ohio State in the Outback Bowl against the Buckeyes when he had over 200 scrimmage yards and scored three times. He briefly played with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens before heading overseas to play in NFL Europe.

Troy Hambrick: Troy Hambrick (1996-1998) began his career as Duce Staley’s backup and then split carries with fellow back Boo Williams and quarterback Anthony Wright on some teams that struggled to move the ball. Hambrick was the first freshman in school history to rush for 100 yards in back-to-back games and joined Staley as only the second duo to rush for 100 yards in the same contest. He was underutilized with the Gamecocks, and disciplinary issues led to his dismissal from the team. He eventually made his way to the NFL for a short stay in the League.

Brandon Wilds: Brandon Wilds (2011-2015) never entered a season as the feature back, but he was talented and filled in very well when other backs got injured. After Marcus Lattimore got hurt in 2011, a freshman Wilds had over 600 yards of offense in half a season of work. Shon Carson and David Williams were expected to be the lead backs in 2015, but Wilds outplayed them both to regain the top spot. Despite his limited usage as a Gamecock, he racked up almost 2400 scrimmage yards and 16 touchdowns and had a brief run in the NFL with six different franchises.

Mike Dingle: Another back who could find the end zone, Mike Dingle (1988-1990) crossed the goal line 18 times in three seasons despite being the second back behind, at different times, Harold Green and Rob DeBoar. Dingle was a big back who also played some fullback and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, with whom he had a brief two-year career at the professional level.

Billy Gambrell: A do-it-all type of back, Billy Gambrell (1960-1962) never put up a ton of stats but did exactly what Coach Marvin Bass asked of him. Did the Gamecocks need Gambrell to run the ball that day? He ran hard. Did the Gamecocks need Gambrell to catch the ball against the defense they were facing? He caught the ball well. Did the Gamecocks need Gambrell to block for other backs? He blocked tough. A Gamecock through and through, the undersized player with a big heart went on to a nine-year career in the NFL, primarily as a wide receiver.

Rob DeBoar: Rob DeBoar (1990-1993) was another fullback/running back combo for the Gamecocks. DeBoar had a statically productive freshman year that saw him total about 750 yards on over 5 yards per carry and six touchdowns. His stats dropped off after the 1990 season, but DeBoar remained an important part of the offense, both as a rusher and as a blocker for other backs. He also played on the South Carolina baseball team.

Derek Watson: Derek “Squeaky” Watson (1999-2001) was as talented as any back to come through Carolina. Watson was not overly fast but was extremely…well, squeaky…as he used his good vision to slip past defenses. He exploded for 1250 scrimmage yards as a sophomore in 2000. Watson returned a punt for a touchdown and also took two kicks to the house both called back by penalties. Ultimately, disciplinary issues piled up, and Waton was dismissed from the team. He spent two years in the NFL.

Jay Lynn Hodgin: Jay Lynn Hodgin (1972-1974) spent three seasons in garnet and black. He had a nose for the end zone that saw him score over 20 touchdowns and rush for almost 2500 yards. Hodgin played in a run-heavy system that utilized his tough-nosed north and south style of running to perfection. Hodgin is in the top-10 in multiple rushing categories in South Carolina Gamecock history.

Kent Hagood: Kent Hagood (1981-1984) spent most of his career as the backup to Thomas Dendy. Hagood, though, was a very good football player who performed well during his opportunities. Even though he shared the backfield with Dendy, as well as Johnnie Wright, Todd Berry, Anthony Smith, and Quinton Lewis, Hagood finished his career with over 2000 yards rushing and exactly 2500 scrimmage yards to go with 18 total touchdowns.