Lattimore expected to go pro

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 10, 2012 

South Carolina TB, Marcus Lattimore (21), gets past Georgia Bulldogs safety Jakar Hamilton (23) on a second quarter run for a first down during the Gamecocks game against Georgia at Williams-Brice Stadium, Saturday, September 11, 2010 Columbia, SC 9/11/10 Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com ** OUTS: AP OUT, MAGAZINES OUT, MCT AND NEWSPAPERS PRINT ONLY-WEB OUT**

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Marcus Lattimore, the linchpin recruit of Steve Spurrier’s turnaround at South Carolina, might be headed to the NFL after 29 games in a Gamecock uniform.

Lattimore plans to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, according to a source. The Associated Press and ESPN.com also reported the news Monday, citing sources close to the situation. However, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told The State on Monday Lattimore might return to his team for the 2013 season.

“All I can tell you is I know he’s thinking about it,” Spurrier said. “He will be the one to tell everybody. I think some day this week he plans to let everyone know.”

A call to Lattimore’s cell phone Monday went unanswered.

Asked if Lattimore had already informed him of his intention to leave, Spurrier replied, “I can’t confirm or deny any private conversations. I’d be a fool to speak for another person. I try my best to let the players speak for themselves. In due time, we’ll talk it all out.”

Lattimore, who suffered a devastating right knee injury on Oct. 27 against Tennessee, told The State on Friday that he would make a decision “in a couple days.”

“I can’t say nothing yet because I don’t know nothing yet,” he said at the time.

Lattimore signed with South Carolina in 2010 out of Byrnes High School in Duncan. The state’s Mr. Football and one of the top running back recruits in the nation at the time, he sparked what has been the golden era of South Carolina football as the Gamecocks have won 30 games and an SEC Eastern Division title in the past three seasons.

Lattimore, who rushed for 6,375 yards and 104 touchdowns in high school, lived up to his tremendous hype immediately. He was named the national freshman of the year after rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. He carried the ball 40 times for 212 yards against Florida on Nov. 13 of that season in a victory that clinched the Eastern Division crown, only the second championship in school history.

Lattimore rushed for 818 yards in seven games as a sophomore before being lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee against Mississippi State.

He was still looking to return to his freshman season form this year when he was hit directly on his right knee by Tennessee defensive back Eric Gordon while his foot was planted in the ground and another Volunteer was leaping onto his back.

Team physician Dr. Jeff Guy said Lattimore suffered “injury to several ligaments” but “no fractures or additional injuries.” Spurrier referred to the injury as a knee dislocation, which is a very difficult injury to overcome for elite athletes, according to Dr. David Geier, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

“With knee dislocations, and I am not saying this specifically for Lattimore, our goal as orthopaedic surgeons is to get people walking without a limp, full knee motion, able to work, able to go to school, able to do basic exercise,” Geier said. “More than that is a bonus, but by no means is that ever a guarantee.”

Geier said he would tell a patient with the same injury not to expect his knee to return to 100 percent normalcy, he said.

“It is a very, very difficult injury to get back to an elite level of any kind of cutting, pivoting, jumping, landing, things like that,” he said. “We have come a long way toward getting people living normally but it is a very, very tough injury to get to the same level where high-level athletes were before.”

It is possible Lattimore could spend the entire 2013 season rehabilitating his knee and not get back into a game until 2014. Rotoworld.com NFL Draft writer Josh Norris said he believes an NFL team will draft Lattimore in April despite any questions about his knee.

Lattimore’s 2,677 career yards rank sixth in school history. All five players ahead of him on the list played four seasons at South Carolina. His 38 career rushing touchdowns and 41 overall touchdowns are both school records and his 11 100-yard games are tied for second in school history behind George Rogers’ 27.

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