The Lattimore effect

If there is a name that is now synonymous with Gamecock football, it's Marcus Lattimore. Marcus Lattimore is a big reason for the Gamecocks' success in recent years.

There was a point in time in recent years when South Carolina was once referred to as "Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks."

It's understandable considering the high-profile nature of the Gamecocks' head coach. Spurrier is an SEC coaching legend that was a huge hire for the Gamecocks towards the end of 2004.

His name alone brought plenty of added attention that started under former coach Lou Holtz. People were interested in South Carolina because of the head coach and not necessarily for its winning ways. There was work to be done when the Head Ball Coach entered the mix and it wasn't an easy time those first few seasons.

Spurrier and the Gamecocks were 35-28 in Spurrier's first five years as the Gamecocks' head coach. They were 1-3 in bowl games during this time frame and weren't exactly turning heads quite as quickly as Steve Spurrier expected.

Enter Marcus Lattimore.

Lattimore was a high-profile running back from Byrnes High School in South Carolina that had offers from all over the country. He was considered a "franchise" running back coming out of high school. He was the complete package physically and mentally as evident by his on-the-field performance and off-the-field contributions to his community.

Any team would want a player like Lattimore on their side.

The accolades followed Lattimore to Carolina where big things were expected of the young running back, but no one envisioned the impact he would have as quickly as he did for the Gamecocks.

In the second game of his career, Lattimore ran the ball 37 times for 182 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns against the Georgia Bulldogs. He embarrassed the Bulldogs and became a national sensation overnight.

The fun didn't stop there as Lattimore would finish his freshman season with 1197 yards rushing on 249 carries with 17 rushing touchdowns along with 412 yards receiving with two receiving touchdowns. These aren't your typical numbers for a true freshman.

Lattimore continued his assault on college football with an impressive start to the 2011 season. Lattimore rushed for over 110 yards in each of his first three games with a career-high 246 yards against Navy with three rushing touchdowns. Lattimore's season was cut short, however, due to a knee injury suffered in the Mississippi State game on the road. He would finish the year with 818 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns which would still finish in the Top 10 of the SEC in rushing yards for the season.

Once again, the Gamecocks are counting on a a healthy Lattimore to lead the way and he appears primed for a big season. South Carolina is ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in school history and expectations are at an all-time high. Lattimore is considered one of the top running backs in the country and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

It's safe to say that a lot of great things that have happened to the Gamecocks program over the last two seasons have coincided with the arrival of Marcus Lattimore. Is he solely responsible? Of course not. You can't forget the contributions of Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, Cliff Matthews, Antonio Allen and so on. All of these players are responsible for bringing South Carolina to a level it's never quite been before.

But if you had to thank one player for making the Gamecocks what they are today, you could look over and find Marcus Lattimore ready and waiting to continue this wild ride he started back in the season-opener against Southern Mississippi in 2010.

If you think the Gamecocks will falter this season, think again. Marcus Lattimore won't let that happen. There is a confidence and a team mentality that has been instilled in the mindset of this Gamecock football team. Great things are expected to continue now for South Carolina.

And that, my friends, is the Lattimore effect.

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