Lattimore streaking all the way back

HOOVER, Ala. -- Marcus Lattimore might not be in attendance at the SEC media days, but there’s been plenty of chatter about South Carolina’s star tailback.

In short, it sounds like he’s as good as new.

“He looks like the old Marcus, in and out of cuts and sudden moves,” South Carolina junior receiver Ace Sanders said. “Actually, he looks like he’s gotten bigger and stronger to me.”

Lattimore, who’s rushed for 2,015 yards and scored 27 touchdowns in 20 career games, missed the last half of the season a year ago after tearing the ACL in his left knee against Mississippi State. He’s been working feverishly ever since to get back, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that the Gamecocks’ medical staff has pronounced Lattimore 100 percent healthy to start preseason camp in August.

“He’s picked up right where he left off,” South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw said.

Sanders said Lattimore has been doing everything the entire team has been doing in offseason workouts.

"He's right there with us every day," Sanders said. "That lets you know that he's game-ready."

The best thing about Lattimore’s return is that the Gamecocks shouldn’t have to lean on him as hard as they did his first two seasons. He has 460 touches (carries and catches) in 20 career games.

“Some people say he’s the best running back in college football, and certainly two years ago, he really carried us,” Spurrier said. “Last year, when he got hurt, other guys stepped up. Brandon Wilds played well, and Kenny Miles came in the last two games and played very well.

“We have more guys now. We’re a different team when Marcus is healthy, but I’ve got a feeling that Kenny Miles will play a little bit more than he did last year.”

Shaw is eager to see what the Gamecocks’ zone read package looks like with Lattimore in the backfield. They played only one full game together last season (a 54-3 rout of Kentucky) after Shaw moved into the starting lineup. Lattimore was injured the next game against Mississippi State.

“I’m very comfortable with what we’re doing,” Shaw said. “But we’ll have a more diverse offense than just the zone read. It’s not only Marcus, either, but we have a lot of guys behind him who can play.”