Ellington looking to step up

With Marcus Lattimore out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, it will be up to several Gamecocks to pick up the slack left by the 2010 national freshman of the year. One of the most important pieces to that puzzle is Bruce Ellington, who picked up a big award as the SEC Freshman of the week against Mississippi State.

Marcus Lattimore's impact on the 2011 Gamecocks is done. While he will certainly come back to continue his legacy as one of USC's all-time greats, the current edition of the garnet and black will have to turn to a cast of replacements who hope to fill the massive void left by the departure of their sophomore superstar.

One such player is Bruce Ellington, the "do everything" man on offense who began his South Carolina career on the basketball court but now continues it on the gridiron. Ellington has made big strides in his first year of college football, showing his versatility out of the wildcat formation, as well as returning kicks and playing receiver.

Freshman Brandon Wilds is expected to get the first crack at replacing Lattimore as a true running back, with a banged up Kenny Miles and Eric Baker behind him. Coach Spurrier said that Ellington's role in the offense will grow, but it will also be more diverse than other players.

"It is more involved than just sticking him back there right now," noted Spurrier. "He's not going to be a running back per se. We won't ask him to pick up the blitzing linebackers and such which is what running backs do nowadays. He'll be in there in the wildcat. As we know he can throw it, so we'll have some passes for him; more than last week. We're going to let him go."

Ellington has made a variety of contributions this season, including several key plays on the winning drive against Mississippi State. Although he has only one touchdown to his name, he has contributed with 105 yards rushing, 24 yards passing, and 129 yards receiving. He has also returned eleven kickoffs for 244 yards.

If he is called upon to run the ball more, Ellington said he wouldn't have too much of a problem transitioning, and that it's really all about following your blockers.

"Well I'm going to go out there and play wherever the coach wants to play me at," said Ellington. "I don't feel like it's a difference, you still have to read the o-line and what blocks they make. So I don't feel there's a difference. I would feel comfortable back there."

Ellington also received a rare honor after the game against Mississippi State as he was named SEC Freshman of the Week, an award he also won on the basketball court last season. While several athletes have accomplished the feat of winning the league's freshman of the week award in two different sports, Ellington is believed to be the first to accomplish that distinction in both football and basketball.

"When I first heard it I think Coach Spurrier Jr. texted me and said, ‘you're not actually a freshman,'" Ellington said with a smile. "But I was happy when I saw that, but the reason I got it is because of my teammates and the way they block and the way they keep encouraging me to go out there and play hard."

As is always the case in the SEC, the season certainly does not get any easier from here, especially after losing what many consider the team's MVP over the last year and a half. Still remaining on the Gamecocks' schedule are road trips to Tennessee and Arkansas before returning home and facing Florida and Clemson, as well as the Citadel.

Despite a 6-1 record, it certainly has been a season of turmoil, and the Gamecocks will have to fight hard without several experienced leaders on the field. But according to Ellington, USC's situation is not much different from many football teams around the country, and they must continue to battle against the odds.

"Yes it has been a tough season but we're just going to fight through it," said Ellington. "Like I said, we're going through adversity and every team does. We lost one of our best players, everybody knows that, but we're just going to have to keep up and make plays. Everybody needs to step up and make plays, like I said. Alshon, he's a great leader, and Connor, he's stepping in and being a great leader, so we've got people that can lead, we just have to step up and make plays."

After all, one simple goal remains for these Gamecocks, who hope to make their second straight trip to Atlanta in December.

"I believe that we as teammates, we've been through a lot, so I think we can just keep moving on. And hopefully we'll keep winning."

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