Graham not concerned with Lattimore's rushes

South Carolina practiced briefly on Wednesday afternoon before storms moved into Columbia, forcing the team to move inside to watch film. Running back coach Jay Graham met with the media following practice to discuss the number of rushes Marcus Lattimore has accumulated through the first three weeks of the season.

Many South Carolina fans and media members across the country are worried about the load running back Marcus Lattimore has had to carry through the first three games of the 2010 season. After all, the sophomore Heisman candidate has carried the ball 87 times already this season, an average of 29 carries per game. That is quite a load – 328 over 12 games – but running back coach Jay Graham does not appear too worried.

"I think he's doing fine right now," Graham said following Wednesday's shortened practice due to severe weather in the Columbia area. "I always ask him in the game how he's feeling. He's gotten stronger. I think he's prepared and ready to go."

Despite the concerns over the load so far this season, Lattimore is not far off of his pace through three games last season. Despite pulling away from Southern Miss in the opener and late against Furman in the third game of the season, Lattimore still had 70 carries through the first three games. Obviously Graham would love to see the numbers drop, but the first goal is to win the game.

"I think it all depends on how the game goes," Graham said. "Last year he had 70 or so carries through three games so I don't guess 17 more carries is a big deal. We were fortunate enough last year to get up in some games and be able to get him out in the third quarter and things like that."

30 carries per game would be an unprecedented total for an SEC running back, but would not break the NCAA record. UCF's Kevin Smith ran the ball 450 times in 2007 when he rushed for 2,567 yards.

"I think we certainly don't want him to have 35 carries a game. There's only been one guy to do that and I think that's Herschel (Walker)," Graham laughingly said.

Lattimore's ability to avoid collisions has given him the ability to carry the load so often without breaking down. He has the ability to turn his body and slide through tackles and the brunt of hits from defenders. In Lattimore's 336 career carries, he's only lost a total of 36 yards. That is a remarkable statistic for a running back that has carried the ball so many times, often when the opponent knew he was going to get the ball. His ability to avoid hits is a big reason for that.

Still, Graham would love to be able to get other players into the game if possible.

"That's been what we've been trying to do from the beginning," Graham said. "Shon went in there and he got injured (Georgia game), in the same game Kenny Miles got banged up and he's just getting back and getting healthy so a lot of that is getting the guys behind him ready to go. Certainly I would love to get some of those other guys in the game."

Miles, who injured his wrist against Georgia, did not get a carry in the Navy game, but could see some action against Vanderbilt Saturday with a wrap on the injured wrist.

"It's just getting used to it," Graham said. "It's going to be a different feeling for him. It's healed a little bit more. He'll have a wrap on it."

Lattimore will be facing Vanderbilt for the first time in his career after sitting out last year's game due to an injured ankle against Kentucky the week before. Vanderbilt has been tough against the run, giving up just 86 yards per game on the ground. They start three redshirt juniors and a redshirt senior on the defensive line, a redshirt senior, redshirt junior, and sophomore at linebacker, a senior and junior at cornerback, and a senior and redshirt sophomore at safety. However, they have not faced a running back like Lattimore so far.

"They've always been tough defensively," Graham said. "They've got a really good defense this year. They do a good job creating a lot of turnovers. The thing that really shows up on tape is the extra effort. They have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for them."

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