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The SEC's 25 best players: No. 8

3/10/2011

The only freshman in our countdown checks in at No. 8, and his impact last season was immediate:

No. 8: Marcus Lattimore, RB, Fr., South Carolina

2010 numbers/honors: Finished third in the SEC in rushing with 1,197 yards and also caught 29 passes for 412 yards. Lattimore scored 19 touchdowns, which was one shy of tying the SEC record for a freshman. A unanimous pick for National Freshman of the Year honors and a second-team All-America selection by Walter Camp. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection.

Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Lattimore: When it comes to impact on a team, Lattimore was right there at the top nationally when you look at what he did for the Gamecocks. They went from having no running game the year before to running the ball much more efficiently with the 6-foot, 218-pound Lattimore pounding his way to 249 carries, which tied LSU’s Stevan Ridley for the most carries by a running back in the SEC last season. More importantly, Lattimore opened up things for everybody else on South Carolina’s offense and was the ultimate chain-mover. And when the Gamecocks needed the tough yards, he was there to get them. In their three biggest wins – Alabama, Florida and Georgia – Lattimore was brilliant. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass against the Crimson Tide, while rushing for 182 yards against Georgia in his SEC debut and then 212 yards and three touchdowns (on 40 bruising carries) in the Eastern Division-clinching win at Florida. Lattimore became the first South Carolina player in history to rush for 180 yards or more three times in the same season. He led all SEC running backs with an average of 116.1 rushing yards in league games and was second among all players against SEC competition with an average of 153.3 all-purpose yards per game. Something says we've only seen a glimpse of how good this guy can be.

The rundown

No. 9: Georgia OLB Justin Houston

No. 10: Arkansas RB Knile Davis

No. 11: Georgia WR A.J. Green

No. 12: LSU DT Drake Nevis

No. 13: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba

No. 14: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard

No. 15: South Carolina DE Devin Taylor

No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black

No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams

No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw