Bigger, stronger Lattimore back for more

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who earned national freshman of the year honors last season, said following practice Thursday that he’d bulked up to 233 pounds.

Lattimore said he played at 217 for much of last season. He added that he’s gotten a lot stronger in his hips and thigh area and can already tell a big difference.

“It’s all about getting those yards after that first hit, and I think I’ll be able to do even more of that now that I’ve added some weight and gotten stronger,” said Lattimore, who rushed for 1,197 yards and scored 19 touchdowns last season. “You can never do enough to prepare for the pounding you take in this league.”

Lattimore carried the ball 249 times last season, tying LSU’s Stevan Ridley for the most carries in the SEC among running backs. But he also missed most of the second half against Kentucky after hurting his ankle, an injury that kept him out the entire game the next week against Vanderbilt.

Lattimore was also knocked out of the bowl game against Florida State on the first series after taking a shot up under the facemask and suffering a slight concussion.

“I know how it is now in the SEC. You’ve got to be durable and got to be strong to last the whole season, and that’s what I’m trying to do this year,” Lattimore said. “Those two and a half games hurt me, because I’ve never been out of a game except for when I got to college. I’m just trying to get stronger.”

As good as Lattimore was last season, he’s adamant that it was just the beginning.

“I want to be the best running back in the country, and to do that, I’ve just got to keep working hard,” Lattimore said.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has raved about Lattimore’s work ethic and how he repeatedly led the way and won most of the awards in the offseason weight and conditioning program.

“Coaching’s a lot easier when you have a bunch of guys like Marcus Lattimore, because the other guys follow his lead,” Spurrier said.

Lattimore’s primary lead has been that there’s more out there for the Gamecocks next season than just making it to the SEC championship game.

“This is when you do something about it,” Lattimore said. “We have the talent on this team to win an SEC championship, and we sort of tasted it last year.

“Once you taste it, you want more, and that’s the way this team has worked ever since that last game against Florida State.”