Is South Carolina Killing Marcus Lattimore’s Future NFL Career?

Marcus Lattimore might be the best running back in the country. Every week he brings his A-game, and the South Carolina coaching staff isn’t shy to lean on his ability to win games. Lattimore carried the ball more than any other running back in the SEC during 2010 (Stevan Ridley matched his carries), and he’s well ahead of any other conference back so far in 2011.

With the lifespan of running backs in the NFL – and Marcus Lattimore undoubtedly has his eye on an NFL career – running only a few seasons, it might be worth questioning how impactful the high number of carries over an entire college career (or even just three years prior to jumping pro) might be on Lattimore’s future.

Let’s look at some statistics to start:

2010 SEASON

Player Carries
Marcus Lattimore 249 Carries
Stevan Ridley 249 Carries
Knile Davis 204 Carries
Tauren Poole 204 Carries
Vick Ballard 186 Carries
Michael Dyer 182 Carries

It’s also worth noting that Lattimore came out of the Kentucky game in 2010 after getting injured – South Carolina lost the game and would have likely rode Lattimore hard in order to secure the win. Lattimore then missed the Vanderbilt game the following week. Between the two games, Lattimore may have had an additional 20-40 carries or so and had closer to 275-ish carries on the year.

Lattimore also got injured on his first carry against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He came out of the game and had only the single carry that game.

Let’s look at this season…

2011 SEASON (Through 3 Games)

Player Carries
Marcus Lattimore 87 Carries
Spencer Ware 54 Carries
Tauren Poole 54 Carries
Trent Richardson 50 Carries
Michael Dyer 48 Carries
Chris Rainey 48 Carries

While Lattimore’s carries in a single season aren’t alarming, the pace he is on for number of carries over his college carry may be.

Mark Ingram carried the ball 271 times in 2009, but sandwiched that year between 143 carries in 2008 and 158 in 2010 (he did miss a few games in 2010).

Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno put up big numbers across two seasons with 248 carries in 2007 and 250 in 2008. Moreno was redshirted his freshman year, and his sophomore year, he was going to split carries with Thomas Brown – but he went down a few weeks in with a broken collarbone.

The bottom line is that the load Marcus Lattimore is carrying right now is high. Maybe he is super human and he will be fine. Or maybe NFL scouts will be concerned with the beating he took in college? It’s hard to say.

Running backs in the SEC are the most battle tested backs in the country considering the defensive athletes that line up every saturday down south, but it also means the SEC running backs have taken the biggest beating.

Moreover, most SEC teams have a decent backup running back to share the load and keep the legs fresh. South Carolina pretty much leans entirely on Lattimore. Let’s see how Lattimore’s percentage of the overall rushing load matches up with the other SEC running backs.

2011 SEASON (Through 3 Games)

Team Team
Carries
Main RB Main RB
Carries
% Of Team
Carries
2nd
Rusher
2nd Rusher
Carries
% Of Team
Carries
South Carolina 125 Marcus Lattimore 87 70% Stephen Garcia 17 14%
Tennessee 102 Tauren Poole 54 53% Marlin Lane 23 23%
Auburn 104 Michael Dyer 48 46% Onterio McCalebb 30 29%
Alabama 109 Trent Richardson 50 46% Eddie Lacy 28 26%
LSU 131 Spencer Ware 54 41% Michael Ford 40 31%
Georgia 116 Isaiah Crowell 47 41% Richard Samuel 18 16%
Florida 128 Chris Rainey 48 38% Jeff Demps 24 19%
Arkansas 115 Ronnie Wingo 43 37% Kody Walker 20 17%
Kentucky 102 Josh Clemons 37 36% Morgan Newton 34 33%
Ole Miss 101 Jeff Scott 36 36% Randall Mackey 13 13%
Mississippi State 135 Vick Ballard 41 30% Chris Relf 56 41%
Vanderbilt 105 Zac Stacy 29 28% Jerron Seymour 28 27%

As you can see in the above chart, Lattimore is responsible for 70% of South Carolina’s rushing plays. Additionally, the real percentage of called rushing plays is going to be higher since this factors in Garcia’s runs on called pass plays.

Tauren Poole is second in percentage of runs, but this is also misleading because Tennessee throws the ball much more than it runs. Poole has over 30 less carries than Lattimore.

The bottom line is that South Carolina will ride Marcus Lattimore this year (and probably next). We all hope Lattimore stays healthy and that his future remains bright, but we also might want to hope that a legitimate backup running back is capable at some point of helping Lattimore carry the Gamecocks.

Considering the two occasions that the “Country Boy” was injured in the 2010 season, it also makes sense for the sake of keeping Lattimore healthy while he’s still a Gamecock.

Here are some great photos of Lattimore grinding it out against Navy last week (watch video here). Photos from Laurie Giarratano.

Marcus Lattimore

Marcus Lattimore 2011 Statistics

Marcus Lattimore 2011 Stats

COMMENTS

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  • I like all the stats, but you don’t present the most interesting ones for the question at hand. How has number of rushes for an SEC RB correlated with the length of his NFL career. Of course, there are selection problems, since better backs are going to both get more rushes and have longer NFL careers, but you might be able to control for this if you condition on being a 5-star out of HS or something.

    • It’s really difficult to determine how number of rushes in college translate to NFL career because of so many variables in the NFL. Running backs are so different in the NFL depending on which team, which coach, running style, etc.

      There are some compelling statistics of running backs who had a very high number of carries in the NFL and how their career dropped off following those heavy seasons in the NFL, but again it’s difficult looking at the college stats to NFL.

      We’ll continue to monitor this story as Lattimore’s carries are likely to continue…

      • Then it’s all speculation and the numbers mean nothing. For all we know this could simply mean more experience for Lattimore before entering the pros. Look at Herschel Walkers stint in the Pros. granted it wasn’t all in the NFL but it was still at the same level of play. He carried the ball in college sometimes 50 times a game and averaged almost 40 carries every other game for three years. It all depends on the individual and how well they protect their body when taking a hit and how conditioned they are.

        • Herschel Walker also runs a 4.5 and fights MMA as a 49 year old so he’s not exactly the best comparison.

          Also, you could make the argument that the defenses that Lattimore is facing are bigger and better than running backs years ago would face.

          Bottom line is that Lattimore is going to get hit alot and get hit hard. I hope he holds up.

        • Lattimore was injured twice last season. He’s a stud, but the workload is definitely wearing on him…

  • We didn’t sign Marcus Lattimore to build him into an NFL running back. He was brought to Columbia to help us win an SEC title. Like Steve Spurrier said yesterday, while we’d like to have multiple backs sharing the load, there’s only one Marcus Lattimore. Why worry about the end of the season when we’re trying to win now? If he’s tired or hurt, he’ll let the coaches know.

    Spurrier’s job isn’t to shape Lattimore into an NFL back, it’s to win football games now. The Gamecocks don’t go into games thinking we need to give Marcus 40 carries, but sometimes (OK most of the time) it takes that to win.

    • he’s just a gift from gamecock heaven

    • By discussing the possibilities of how Lattimore’s load will impact his future, it doesn’t mean I disagree with Spurrier’s use of him. Of course he’s going to use him, and I agree, it’s not his job to make sure he is good to go in the NFL.

      It’ll be interesting to see if Lattimore can make it through the entire season. They’re gonna need him.

    • as a fellow gamecock fan we want to win, but a the same time you still want the young man to have a future and not be dinged up for the rest of his life

  • More immediately than the NFL, SC ought to be worried about the implications for this season. Relying so heavily on one player can spell disaster if something happens to him. Let’s say, hypothetically, that he breaks his ankle against Vanderbilt (I certainly don’t wish that on him). What happens to the SC season then? They enter the meat of their season with their top performer out. They really need to find someone to help carry the load.

  • I don’t think you can compare Marcus to any of those backs this century. Many of the bigger backs from the 80s and 90s carried the ball over 300 times in a season, playing in only 11 games (Walker, Dayne, Faulk, Ricky Williams, Sanders). Herschel carried it 274, 385 & 335 in his 3 seasons. Ricky Willliams carried it 361 in 1998.

  • why dont we worry about the linemen? sure a running back gets a running start before he is hit, but offensive and defensive linemen go at each other every play of every game and many NFL linemen have very long careers.