Latt Evens the Score

The South Carolina Gamecocks worked through their final open practice and first workout in pads Saturday night in front of a large group of Gamecocks fans. While it was D.J. Swearinger who delivered a blow to freshman Marcus Lattimore earlier this week, it was Lattimore who got the last laugh Saturday night.

When freshman running back Marcus Lattimore tucked the ball away and strolled into the second level of the defense Thursday night heading directly towards safety D.J. Swearinger -- known arguably as the team's hardest hitter -- the sophomore just couldn't help but deliver a welcome-to-the-team type blow to the former five-star back. Though head coach Steve Spurrier insisted that the hit looked and sounded more vicious than it was because Lattimore was off balance, the hit was still the talk of the night.

Just maybe when Lattimore took his lump, popped right up and jogged back to the huddle, he knew he'd get his own shot at Swearinger later on.

It took just two days for Lattimore to get his opportunity.

In Saturday night's goal line 11-on-11 situation, Lattimore took the handoff, sprinted through a hole directly at Swearinger who stood between him and the end zone. Much to the delight of the hundreds of Gamecock fans in attendance, Lattimore lowered his head and delivered the biggest offensive blow of the preseason trucking through Swearinger on the way into the end zone, helping cap off the Gamecocks' first practice in full pads and last open practice.

The two hits told the tale of a first week of practice in which both sides of the ball appeared anxious to compete.

"D.J. said, ‘he got me, coach. I wasn't quite ready for it.' I said he wasn't quite ready for yours the other day," head coach Steve Spurrier said. "He caught Marcus a little bit off balance [Thursday]. Marcus went roaring up to the end zone and I don't think D.J. was expecting a full charge and he ran over him there. It was two good hits. No big deal. It's all over with."

After the hit, the entire offense ran into the end zone to celebrate with Lattimore. According to Spurrier the offensive line had something else to celebrate about.

"The offensive line did not jump offside tonight," Spurrier said. "It might have been the first time we've had a complete practice without one of them with a false start, so that was encouraging. Hopefully we can do it again tomorrow and the next day. Other than that, it was a pretty good practice, a lot of enthusiasm."

While both hits brought a lot of excitement, neither was vicious and Spurrier has been pleased with the way the players have protected their teammates during the first week.

"We're staying off the ground. We're trying to practice as smart as we can, not get guys hurt. I know some people, if you don't play well, they say, 'they're too nice in practice, they didn't get enough guys hurt.' But in reality now, people are realizing it doesn't do you any good to get your guys hurt in practice."

The one player who did get dinged up Saturday is defensive tackle Melvin Ingram, who got his ankle rolled up from behind. Ingram was able to get his foot out of the ground, though, should be fine, according to Spurrier.

It was a positive end to a positive first week of practice. "Hopefully the fans had a good time," Spurrier said. "We appreciate them coming out. We believe you ought to open (the practices) up for at least a week, then we'll close up like most of the other schools do now."

Senior tight end Weslye Saunders had what was likely his best night of the week.

"Weslye caught everything tonight," Spurrier said. "Weslye is in better shape than he's ever been. He's got a lot better attitude. He's catching the ball very well. He could be a big target for us and a big help."

Spurrier said he didn't know anything new on Saunders' status nor whether they would know before the season starts.

The Gamecocks will host their annual Media Day on Sunday afternoon and then will practice at 5:15. South Carolina will have morning practices each day Monday through Friday with this team's first scrimmage taking place Tuesday. All workouts are closed to the public.

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