Lattimore right on track

Marcus Lattimore has done everything he needed to do to recover from his season-ending knee injury suffered in last year's Mississippi State. As his teammates went through spring drills, Lattimore was running sprints to strengthen the injured leg. May 2nd will be the next obstacle for Lattimore to overcome.

He'll be ready to go.

There's no doubt that when South Carolina travels to Nashville to open the 2012 season on August 30th, Marcus Lattimore will be on the field.

And he will be 100% healthy.

"He's doing fine," head coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's going to be ready to go. He's right on schedule. Maybe even a little ahead of schedule. He's doing fine."

When Lattimore went down while attempting to block for Bruce Ellington in the seventh game of the season against Mississippi State, everyone knew it was bad. It didn't take long – one day to be exact – to learn that Lattimore was done for the season with a torn ACL. Many thought the season was lost.

The Gamecocks rebounded despite the injury to its biggest offensive threat to go 5-1 to finish the season with a school-record 11 wins. It was far from pretty from an offensive standpoint at times, but they found ways to win. Now they will have Lattimore back.

"I felt like I was doing everything I needed to do," Lattimore said of his rehab. "The main thing was getting stronger. I feel like I'm pretty much almost back to full strength in my right leg. Nothing really surprised me. It was challenging for a couple of things I did."

As soon as Lattimore was allowed to he was in the weight room trying to strengthen that injured leg. By February – four months after the injury – Lattimore was well on his way.

"I've been running on land for about two months now," Lattimore said. "May 2nd will be the day I start to cut. I'm real excited about that. I'm just going to tackle it all in May, June, and July."

For a player that is not used to being injured – the concussion in the first quarter of the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Florida State being the most serious injury – and being out for an extended period of time, coming back from a serious injury could present many mental obstacles to overcome. Not Lattimore.

"I have complete confidence in it right now," Lattimore said. "If it happens again, it just happens again. I'll just let it fall wherever it goes and follow the path that God has laid out for me."

Last spring Lattimore was held out of spring scrimmages for fear of injury. This year he was unable to take part in any drills.

"It was hard," Lattimore said. "I say it all the time just watching them run and do the things that I used to do is real hard. I just stay focused on getting better every day in some way. That's learning my plays better. I feel like I'm a master of the offense now because I've studied it so much. I'm in the meeting room paying attention. I'm obviously getting stronger and getting my legs right while they're practicing. I feel like I'm getting better every day."

Lattimore's return brings extra excitement to a team that has gained momentum from its 11-2 season. Despite some key losses on both sides of the ball, expectations are still high for the 2012 team.

"We have a great team," Lattimore said. We have some guys right now that will help us. Our defense could be just like last year, just relentless. Our offense looks great. Connor (Shaw) looks awesome. We just have a lot of talent, and we'll put it all together this year."

Lattimore has learned a lot from his injury, but most of all it's just not taking anything for granted.

"Just don't take anything for granted," Lattimore said. "I honestly wasn't doing everything to keep myself in shape I was supposed to be in playing in those few games I played in. I wasn't getting in the hot tub and cold tub and stretching like I was supposed to. I'll never take my legs for granted again. The day I started running it was happier than when I committed here."

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