Decision Day for Lattimore: Auburn or USC?
02/02/2010 12:00 AM
02/02/2010 3:04 PM
Shortly after 6 this evening, Marcus Lattimore will stand at a lectern in his Spartanburg church and answer a school's prayers.
The Byrnes High tailback, rated the nation's top running back prospect by the two biggest recruiting sites, will announce his choice between South Carolina and Auburn during a program at Silver Hill United Methodist Church.
The church can accommodate 600 people in the sanctuary and balcony area, where Rev. Edward McDowell said Lattimore's family sits every Sunday. But Lattimore will be front and center today to reveal a closely guarded decision.
In his last public comments, Lattimore gave Auburn a slight edge, citing the school's running back tradition and the similarities between the Tigers' offense and Byrnes' scheme.
He also questioned the "mentality" of a USC offense that featured 10 rushes from its running backs in a Papajohns.com Bowl loss to Connecticut, a game after the Gamecocks ran 58 times in a 34-17 win against Clemson.
But Lattimore and his family have not spoken to the media in two weeks, leaving coaches, fans - even his pastor - to speculate about where Lattimore will sign on Wednesday.
"I've got my prognostications, of course," said McDowell, who has been at Silver Hill for three years since leaving Trenholm Road UMC in Columbia. "Both schools are excellent places to be. He has researched both of these places. He's already said in the papers he's sort of leaning toward Auburn. I don't know if that lean is correct or not. I have my druthers."
"I guess if I had my choice, I would say, for lack of a better word, it's good to be in Carolina."
Lattimore has ties to USC. His sister attended USC, and Byrnes teammate and friend Nick Jones is committed to the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks have tried to convince Lattimore there would be an opportunity for him to play immediately and help a rushing attack that finished last in the SEC the past three seasons.
Auburn has pointed to its success in sending tailbacks to the NFL, from Bo Jackson and Spartanburg's Stephen Davis to, more recently, Rudi Johnson, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown.
The school that lands Lattimore will get a 6-foot, 210-pound back who relied on his strength and speed to rush for 1,898 yards and 31 touchdowns in leading Byrnes to the Class 4A, Division I title game.
"I just think he's a powerful running back (and) quick," Byrnes coach Chris Miller said. "Just a slashing-type runner that's very hard to bring down."
Miller also praised Lattimore's pass-catching abilities, calling him a "versatile back (who) can be used in all kind of different ways."
Scout.com regional analyst Miller Safrit, who lives in Spartanburg and has watched Lattimore for four years, believes it is that versatility that makes Lattimore special.
"He brings a lot of the little things that you don't really understand until he gets in the system," Safrit said. "The way he's able to block, his hands out of the backfield, his vision."
Safrit believes Lattimore will choose USC today because of his familiarity with his home-state school. Miller said he has refrained from asking Lattimore about his choice so he would be surprised along with everyone else.
McDowell said Lattimore mentioned about a year ago the possibility of making his announcement at the church. Yolanda Smith, Lattimore's mother, has prepared a spiritual program that will precede her son's announcement, according to McDowell.
McDowell has heard from a number of radio and TV stations, newspapers and Internet sites that plan to cover the announcement. He is not sure how many other people will attend, but he has made arrangements to open the church's gym for any overflow crowd.
Said Miller: "It's going to be pretty packed, I think."
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