His coach hopes all the way.
Spurrier had one of his trademark one-liners ready when asked Sunday about the health of Lattimore, who had knee surgery last year.
“I hope he’s where he was when he ran against Georgia two years ago,” Spurrier said with a laugh, alluding to Lattimore’s 182-yard performance, when he carried it 37 times, “because that was sort of his coming-out day here at Williams-Brice two years ago.”
And he is behind last season’s rushing pace.
237: Number of rushing yards short of last year’s total through five games for South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, who enters the Georgia game with 440 yards on 92 carries (4.78 yards per carry). Through five games last year, Lattimore, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament nearly a year ago, had 677 yards on 124 carries (5.46 ypc). Lattimore has been productive in 2011 with eight rushing touchdowns and his signature vision and patience through the line. Will he fully regain his explosiveness and cutting ability of old? If he hasn’t, there’s still time for that. Look at Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL in December and looked stronger in Week 4 than in Week 1.
But if you look a little more carefully at his stats this season, it doesn’t seem that he was that far off to begin with. He’s been a very productive player in 2012:
- Second in the conference in rushing attempts
- Top twenty in the SEC in receptions (and first among running backs)
- Sixteenth in the SEC in total offensive plays (and second among running backs)
Further, if you compare this year’s stats to his prior work, he’s pretty much on the same pace he was on his sensational freshman season. He projects out to 239 rushing attempts this year, compared to 249 in 2010, but he’s also on a pace to catch 41 passes, which is more than the 29 he caught two years ago. His average yards per carry is also close: 4.78 vs. 4.81.
If there are any differences of note, maybe it’s these: his average yards per reception has dropped steadily, from 14.21 in 2010 to 9.58 in 2011 to his current 6.81; and his yards per rush are down from last year. How much of that is him and how much of that is how Spurrier has tweaked his offense based on the change from Garcia to Shaw is hard to say.
But overall, what I see is a coach who’s managed his best player on offense carefully and well. Last week was Lattimore’s season high in carries. I expect him to have plenty in the tank to try to repeat the experiences Georgia’s defense suffered through the last two season.