Lattimore ready for encore performance

You hear the term all the time in sports, both at the collegiate and professional level. Sophomore Slump. It's victimized some of the greatest athletes of all time. Marcus Lattimore does not plan to be put in that category following the 2011 football season.

South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore enters his Sophomore season with a lot of expectations. Why not? He's only the returning Freshman of the Year and All-American candidate that is on the Walter Camp watch list, Doak Walker Award list, and Maxwell Award list for the upcoming season. Don't expect Lattimore to get caught up in the hype.

"I'm getting better," Lattimore said after Thursday's practice. "I'm trying to get better in everything."

That is a scary proposition for Gamecock opponents this season. Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, shattering the school record for rushing yardage by a freshman by nearly 350 yards. Lattimore's 17 rushing touchdowns broke the school record and his 19 total touchdowns also broke the school record for individual touchdowns in a season.

In the two biggest games, Lattimore was nothing short of brilliant. In a 17-6 win over Georgia in Lattimore's first SEC game, he ran up and down, around, and through the Bulldog defense to a tune of 182 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. Lattimore earned high praise from around the country following the game and was the most ‘tweeted' subject that night, but many criticized head coach Steve Spurrier for riding Lattimore too hard and Lattimore would not last the entire season with that kind of workload.

How did Lattimore respond? Only by having the biggest game of the season in the biggest game in school history. In the SEC East-clinching win over Florida in the Swamp, Lattimore rushed for 212 yards – eighth most in a game in school history – and three touchdowns on a school-record 40 carries. In the Gamecocks' two biggest wins of the season Lattimore rushed for 394 yards and five touchdowns on 77 carries.

Needless to say, as Lattimore went so did the Gamecock offense. The offense was mediocre at best when Lattimore missed the second half of the Kentucky game and Vanderbilt game with an ankle injury, and missing nearly the entire game against Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Lattimore says that won't be the case this season.

"There's a lot of talent out here," Lattimore said. "We've got a lot of great athletes out here. Everyone's moving around – everybody's excited because they know we've got a chance."

By ‘we've got a chance' Lattimore means having a special year and playing for another SEC Championship in December. Everyone seems a little faster and a little bit quicker the first two days. Perhaps that's due to the fact that guys like Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, and Ace Sanders are making everybody pick up their game.

"We've got 10 receivers that run 4.4, 4.5 (40's) that can catch the ball. (We have) So many receivers out here; and running backs. All our skill positions are moving and we're going to have a high powered offense."

That high-powered offense coupled with a defense that has garnered a lot of attention this summer with the addition of the nation's number one recruit, Jadeveon Clowney, has the Gamecocks ranked 12th in the USA Today poll that made its debut today, the highest starting ranking in program history.

"That's pretty good, but we're going to try and get a little bit lower and get down to number one by the end of the year," Lattimore said with a smile.

Lattimore believes the team will handle the pressure put on them this season as long as they keep working hard and learning the plays. If the Gamecocks want to get where they want to be, they must be able to handle the pressure and actually thrive in the new role as hunted instead of hunter.

"That's what we're trying to build," Lattimore said. "We're not there yet with the Florida's, the Georgia's, the Alabama's, but if we keep working hard, keep practicing, keep keeping the instate players in state we'll be up there one day."

As for Lattimore himself, he's looking to pick up where he left off and have an even bigger season in 2011.

"I would be disappointed if I didn't break enough tackles or do what I'm supposed to do, but it's a team thing," Lattimore said. "We've got a great offense."

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories