George Rogers: Mike Davis has look of a Heisman contender

dcloninger@thestate.comJune 23, 2014 

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— The preseason magazines and awards are starting to pop up on newsstands and the Internet. Naturally, South Carolina tailback Mike Davis is receiving some notice, be it a third-team All-American notice here or a first-team All-SEC selection there.

After 1,183 yards rushing in 2013, Davis is commanding attention as one of the best backs in the country and a contender for the Heisman Trophy.

George Rogers, a former Heisman winner, and Jeff Grantz, the quarterback of an offense that featured two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season, said Davis should be a Heisman contender.

“No question about it,” Rogers said Monday during a golf outing benefiting his foundation. “Mike Davis has got all the skills. He’s got the breakaway speed, he’s got the athletic moves. He’s a great running back and I don’t know if he’ll get the ball as many times as Marcus (Lattimore) did, but if he does, I’m sure he’ll be able to handle that.”

Davis will be the centerpiece of what has the potential to be coach Steve Spurrier’s best offense at USC, running behind a veteran offensive line and surrounded by talent. The Gamecocks could shatter records in scoring and yardage if all goes well, and if Davis starts to tote the ball like Lattimore did in his 1,197-yard 2010 season, he could find himself creeping up the Heisman watch list.

It begins now. With a spotlight thrown on Heisman contenders’ off-the-field exploits as much as on the field (see Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and reigning winner Jameis Winston), Davis’ personal and athletic life will be probed throughout the season. Rogers thinks Davis had a strong guide toward living that part of it with Lattimore as his model, and the football part will take care of itself.

“You got to be able to carry yourself in a well manner,” Rogers said. “Marcus showed a lot of those guys how you’re supposed to carry yourself. I’m sure Mike Davis and some of the other guys took attention from that.”

Grantz, maestro of the veer offense that had two 1,000-yard backs in the backfield with him in 1975, agreed. He sees in Davis what he saw in Clarence Williams and Kevin Long, who combined for 2,204 rushing yards that season.

“We ran the veer, and Mike is an I-back, but he’s got the tools, great balance, good pad angles, breaks tackles,” said Grantz, who rushed for alomst 500 yards in ’75. “He surprised us with his speed last year, actually, which was great. He’s got the potential to really do well, plus with all the other tools we have on offense … the offensive line coming back means a lot. That’s what it’s all about.”

Keeping a low profile off the field shouldn’t be a problem, either. Davis has been rather soft-spoken throughout his career and that’s a good trait to possess in the current age. A prolific Tweeter, Davis knows the effect of social media.

Grantz didn’t have that when he played, but he knows the bonus and danger of it. It’s fun to let Joe Everyman into your life a little bit at a time, but it can also backfire in the aftermath of a frustrating game or practice.

If Davis handles that and continues to work on the weaker parts of his game, the national adulation will come.

“A lot of people like to work on their strengths, which is easy to do,” Grantz said. “When you work on your weaknesses, it makes you a complete ballplayer. Running the veer, I could pitch right-handed easily. I worked so hard on pitching left-handed, at the end of my career, I could pitch better left-handed better than right-handed. It’s just study the game, have fun, be a great teammate and work on your weaknesses.”

Davis has the skills, football and non-football. If each speaks for themselves by November, perhaps Rogers could accompany him to New York.

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