Shortly after Marcus Lattimore was injured in the fourth quarter of South Carolina’s win over Mississippi State, the official and very preliminary diagnosis was that the running back had suffered a sprained knee. In his postgame press conference, head coach Steve Spurrier hinted that the injury could be much more than a sprain.
Unfortunately, Spurrier was correct as the Ol’ Ball Coach announced Sunday that Lattimore suffered torn ligaments in the knee and will miss the remainder of the 2011 season. Surgery will be performed at some point in the near future.
“Our worst fears were realized. Marcus has a torn ligament and a little bit of cartilage damage in there,” said Spurrier. “It’s very unfortunate, flukish-type injury that occurred yesterday.”
Lattimore’s season-ending injury comes a week after the football program dismissed starting quarterback Stephen Garcia for violating unspecified team rules.
Through seven games, Lattimore was No. 13 nationally and No. 2 in the SEC — behind Alabama’s Trent Richardson — in rushing yards per game at 116.9. The past four games, however, Lattimore, considered a preseason Heisman favorite, had seen his production drop precipitously as the Gamecocks struggled to get consistency from the quarterback position.
As far as a replacement for the sophomore goes, Spurrier will likely look at the RB-by-committee approach, hoping to get some semblance of productivity from the trio of Kenny Miles, Brandon Wilds and Bruce Ellington. Wilds, a true freshman, will likely get the start against Tennessee in two weeks, Spurrier said. Miles has been sidelined with a wrist injury for the past several weeks, but Spurrier is hopeful he will be healthy enough to return following the upcoming bye weekend.
The injury to Lattimore will have also have a major effect on the SEC East race. With Lattimore in the lineup, and even given the uneven play at the quarterback play, the Gamecocks were the prohibitive favorites to represent the East in the SEC championship game. Without Lattimore? The door is wide open for Georgia or even Florida to find their way to Atlanta in early December.