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September 14, 2010
Lattimore Staying Grounded
A page endorsing him for the Heisman Trophy has been created on Facebook. At least one national columnist compared him to former SEC rushing greats Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Emmitt Smith. South Carolina fans are already saying he is the next coming of George Rogers, and perhaps even better.
Marcus Lattimore's career is up to two games, but the hype that followed him from Byrnes High School has now stretched far past the boundaries of South Carolina.
After he was done thrashing Georgia's defense for 182 yards and somewhere from 29 to 42 busted tackles last week, the publicity machine began rolling. Lattimore carried 37 times, the third-most in school history, and piled up the most single-game yards for a USC back in 10 years.
How is he handling it?
"My roommate's been telling me about it, and my teammates have been telling me about it," Lattimore said on Tuesday. "It's pretty good, pretty cool to be compared to (past greats). I'm nowhere near them yet."
Coach Steve Spurrier said after the Georgia game, and reiterated on Tuesday, that Lattimore was more than capable of handling the spotlight. A star since his sophomore year of high school, Lattimore has had plenty of practice with praise -- he's also learned from how some of his prep teammates have handled the same process.
"Will Korn, he played at Byrnes and went to Clemson, he lived by (the phrase), 'Satisfaction is fatal to success,'" Lattimore said. "So I'll never be satisfied until we win the SEC championship."
As much as the media has honored Lattimore's performance -- and deservedly so -- the back and the back's coach were trying to take a step back and view the bigger picture. It was one game, one game that most collegians would sacrifice something very dear to have, but one game nonetheless.
There are several more to go.
"We've got to handle it, not get full of ourselves and be ready to play every week," Spurrier said. "With Marcus, I think we're all smart enough to know one game doesn't make a career. I really believe he'll be fired up and ready to go against Furman.
Spurrier said later on that Lattimore's running style reminded him of Smith, who turned an all-star tenure at Florida into a Hall-of-Fame career in the NFL. But he wasn't going to say Lattimore was already up there with Smith, Walker and the rest of the gang, because it's only been two games.
The coach pointed out that he had to mildly dress Lattimore down last week, before the Bulldogs came to town. "He wasn't running his plays out, 20 yards or so," Spurrier said. "So, he picked that up a little bit. (On Monday), he was running them out a little farther than 20. That's always encouraging."
Lattimore took the same cue. He criticized himself for not making better reads against Georgia and tripping over his own feet a few times.
"I left a lot of yards on the field Saturday," he said. "I could have got a lot more yards if I would have kept my feet or keyed my holes. I was missing reads that I should have had some longer runs on; I should have scored on a couple of them. Just some little things."
Lattimore said he has only spoken with Rogers, the Gamecocks' greatest running back, once but would welcome any advice the Heisman winner could give him. As for the present, he wants to keep his head as level as his shoulder pads when he darted into the hole and saw daylight in front of him.
"I'm working hard during practice," he said. "I know, personally, that I got to get better. I know I got to do better on the field and the classroom. That's the two things I really focus on. I'm not really worried about all that, for the Heisman."
"That's only human nature," the coach said. "When you have a sensational game like Marcus did last week, I think that's going to happen. He's got to handle it. He likes playing football. He'll be ready, along with the rest of the guys."
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