Lattimore Talks Gamecocks

It' no secret Byrnes HS running back Marcus Lattimore is one of the top prospects in the entire country. With offers from all over, Lattimore had the Gamecocks on top at one time. But since then he has opened things up. Where do the Gamecocks stand? Could he see himself donning the Garnet and Black one day? Read inside to find out!

The South Carolina Gamecocks have been involved in a couple of memorable recruiting battles for in-state running backs in the past decade. They mixed it up with the top programs in the country in efforts to land South Carolina prep stars Derek Watson and Demetris Summers.

It appears the Gamecocks will engage in a similar national battle royale in the race to secure Byrnes HS running back Marcus Lattimore, Scout.com's top overall prospect for the class of 2010.

With Signing Day 2009 two days away, the class of 2010 running back already has offers from South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Florida State, LSU, North Carolina, Clemson and Maryland among others. The 6', 207-pound back is also receiving heavy interest from Southern Cal, Florida, Ohio State, Texas and Oklahoma.

Some recruits fly under the radar until their senior seasons. Lattimore is not one of those. The nation's top back has had his name thrown around in conversations with the nation's best for a while now.

Lattimore grew up a South Carolina fan, and was on the record with the Gamecocks in the lead at one time. But instability on the USC staff, a poor finish to the Gamecocks' season and a host of other offers that were thrown his way led the five-star prospect to take a closer look at all of his options. Despite that, Lattimore says the Gamecocks are still firmly in the mix for his services.

Friday USC head coach Steve Spurrier, Byrnes recruiter of record Brad Lawing and new running backs coach Jay Graham visited Lattimore's high school.

"They really can't talk, so all I could really say was, ‘what's up?' I saw Coach Graham; he watched me the whole time when I was lifting weights," Lattimore said. "He was just looking at me and Coach Sharpe was telling him a lot of things about me while I was lifting weights."

Lattimore says the visit spurred him to call Graham when he got out of school.

"I talked to him on the phone," Lattimore said. "He told me he saw me in there working hard. He said he really wants me, and he watched the film and really liked me. He told me they want to make the running game (a bigger feature in the offense). He wants me to help them out with that. I've heard a lot of good things about him. He played at Tennessee and was a good back, so I'm just anxious to meet him."

How that meeting goes and the subsequent relationship Lattimore is able to build with Graham could play a large part in his recruitment. Former USC running backs coach Robert Gillespie had formed a bond with Lattimore to the point that Lattimore called him his favorite running backs coach of the schools recruiting him.

Lattimore will get the chance to formally meet Graham and get to know him later this month. While he was invited to USC's Feb. 21 junior day, he has elected to skip that trip in favor of visiting the campus when just he and his mother can spend time with the coaches without other prospects being around.

"That's going to be one of the main things… Seeing how he is and just to meet him and if everything works out… I mean they're still way up there even after Coach Gillespie left. But I've got a good feeling about (Graham), though."

Generally not known as a recruiter, the work of Spurrier in Gillespie's absence is what seems to have kept the Gamecocks in the top group during the time before Graham was hired.

"I knew right when they lost Coach Gillespie. I knew right when Coach Miller told me Coach Spurrier wanted me to call him, I knew I was a big priority for them. Because he told me to call him I think it was a day after they lost Coach Gillespie, just to let me know that I'm still a big priority for them and they still want me. I knew right then and there that I liked Coach Spurrier. And he's a good person to talk to. He's just straight-forward with you."

Along with South Carolina, Lattimore lists UNC, UGA, Alabama, FSU, LSU and Duke in his top group. He says no team holds an edge at this time.

The five-star running back broke down his thoughts on each program:

UNC: "Just the area… I really like Coach John Blake. He's a big reason why (they're up there)."

USC: "Coach Spurrier…Coach Lawing…It's the hometown team…my sister's up there. It's a lot of things about them."

Alabama: "It's tradition. Nick Saban came by the school the other day; he seems like a good guy. Just the tradition and they run the ball.

LSU: "They run the ball. They've got a good tradition. It's a big-time school."

FSU: "Just the chance to go to the NFL at Florida State. They put a lot of people in the NFL. Dexter Carter I like him a lot. I met him yesterday for the first time."

UGA: "Just they run the ball, and I really like Coach Richt. He's like my favorite head coach. And just the person he is."

Duke: "I like Duke because of the opportunity. Because if you don't go to the NFL you can still have a high-paying job and make a lot of money. That's the main thing with Duke."

Lattimore has already been to junior days at Duke and FSU. He also plans a visit to Clemson for its junior day. He has a number of other invites, but has yet to decide which of those he will accept.

At one time Lattimore planned to make his decision known at the Army All-American game, but those plans have changed. He now plans to pare his list down to three lucky teams before his senior season begins. From there, he will look closely at those programs and make his public commitment at the State Championship game.

The ultra-talented difference-maker has three main things that he will be looking for when he does make a decision.

"Just how comfortable I feel with the coaches and the player is number one. If they have my major or not (is number two). And number three would probably be the facilities."

While he doesn't claim a leader, Lattimore had positive things to say about the possibility of him ending up with with the home-state Gamecocks.

"I really can see myself playing there," he says. "I mean, that's one place I really do feel comfortable at. And I feel comfortable with the coaches. I just feel comfortable there every time I go up there. That's the main thing. So, they really are still up there, and I can see myself playing there."

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