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

PlayerCarries
Marcus Lattimore249 Carries
Stevan Ridley249 Carries
Knile Davis204 Carries
Tauren Poole204 Carries
Vick Ballard186 Carries
Michael Dyer182 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)

PlayerCarries
Marcus Lattimore87 Carries
Spencer Ware54 Carries
Tauren Poole54 Carries
Trent Richardson50 Carries
Michael Dyer48 Carries
Chris Rainey48 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)

TeamTeam
Carries
Main RBMain RB
Carries
% Of Team
Carries
2nd
Rusher
2nd Rusher
Carries
% Of Team
Carries
South Carolina125Marcus Lattimore8770%Stephen Garcia1714%
Tennessee102Tauren Poole5453%Marlin Lane2323%
Auburn104Michael Dyer4846%Onterio McCalebb3029%
Alabama109Trent Richardson5046%Eddie Lacy2826%
LSU131Spencer Ware5441%Michael Ford4031%
Georgia116Isaiah Crowell4741%Richard Samuel1816%
Florida128Chris Rainey4838%Jeff Demps2419%
Arkansas115Ronnie Wingo4337%Kody Walker2017%
Kentucky102Josh Clemons3736%Morgan Newton3433%
Ole Miss101Jeff Scott3636%Randall Mackey1313%
Mississippi State135Vick Ballard4130%Chris Relf5641%
Vanderbilt105Zac Stacy2928%Jerron Seymour2827%

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

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