Miles ready for his turn as USC’s lead back

Backup plan falls to senior

nwhite@thestate.comNovember 1, 2012 

South Carolina's Kenny Miles shows off one of the team's new football uniforms Thursday.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

  • FILLING THE GAP Marcus Lattimore had accounted for more than half of USC’s rushing total with 662 yards on 143 carries for an average of 73.6 yards per game. A look at who will fill in for him at running back. KENNY MILES Hgt./Wgt.: 5-9, 193 Class: Senior Hometown: Lawrenceville, Ga. Key stats: 42 carries, 149 yards, 1 TD MIKE DAVIS Hgt./Wgt.: 5-9, 216 Class: Freshman Hometown: Lithonia, Ga. Key stats: 24 carries, 157 yards, 1 TD

When tailback Marcus Lattimore’s season ended prematurely with a knee injury a year ago, the South Carolina football team continued to win with Kenny Miles filling in.

With his teammate out again, Miles knows exactly what he must do.

“I’m definitely ready to step up for my team, to do what it takes to win,” he said. “You can’t replace a guy like Marcus and what he does on the field. But we’re ready to go out and finish the season strong.”

Miles, a 5-foot-9, 193-pound senior from Lawrenceville, Ga., has the experience to make good things happen. Although he didn’t start last season’s 34-13 win over Clemson, he rushed for 71 yards on 21 carries. When he got his first start of the season against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, he responded with 67 yards on 15 carries, including one touchdown, and caught two passes for 13 yards and another score.

Now it’s up to him, freshman Mike Davis and sophomore Brandon Wilds to take charge of the rushing attack for the final three regular-season games against Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson. While Miles concedes that it’s a tough situation to make up for the loss of Lattimore, he believes the tailbacks and the team are up to the challenge.

“We’re definitely out here practicing every day. The plays haven’t changed. We’ll be ready to play when it’s time to go,” Miles said.

“We’ve still got the pieces, still got the people, still got the coaches, and we’re all focused.”

USC coach Steve Spurrier shares that belief. He understands that his team must look forward.

“We’ve got to move on. These guys have a good outlook and good attitude about it. Time can heal a lot of wounds,” he said.

And Spurrier remains confident in his other tailbacks, although he realizes players like Lattimore are rare.

“We’ve got three ready to play, but nobody plays as well as Marcus though,” Spurrier said. “He’s the best running back in the country. It’s a shame.”

Miles, who has become good friends with Lattimore in their three seasons together, visited with Lattimore at the hospital after the injury to support his teammate.

“He was in a pretty good mood. We didn’t talk about football at all,” Miles said. “We talked about everyday life type stuff, like how your family is doing.”

Miles also was one of two players — quarterback Dylan Thompson was the other — to speak at Monday’s rally on the Horseshoe to celebrate Lattimore’s birthday and offer get-well wishes. He spoke from the heart and liked how USC fans and students supported his friend.

“It means a lot to you for people to come out there and really show that kind of respect and love for him,” Miles said.

As he gets closer to the end of his career, Miles looks back with no regrets. He started seven of 13 games as a freshman while rushing for a team-high 626 yards. But his opportunity to be the featured back vanished when Lattimore walked on campus. So he has focused on making his mark as a spot-duty tailback and special-teams contributor, declining to transfer to another program.

“I’m more mature. I’m a little more patient when I run. I hit the holes when I see them, and I try to read my blocking as best I can,” he said. “I feel like my receiving game has improved tremendously. I’ve really worked on my hands these past few years. Overall, I’m a much better player than I was my first year.”

And now he’s a starter again in the final go-around.

“It is very eventful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t like boring. It has been high times and low times, but in all in all it has been good times. It’s a blessing to be here,” he said.

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