GREENVILLE | The largest crowd so far on the Gamecock Club’s Fan Fest tour turned out here Wednesday for coaches, Cocky, championship trophies and cheerleaders.
A visit from star running back Marcus Lattimore proved to be a main attraction.
Lattimore echoed head coach Steve Spurrier’s remarks to fans in attendance that team expectations are higher than a bowl game and an SEC Eastern Division title. The national freshman of the year said a national championship is not too lofty a goal.
“I’m so excited for this summer,” Lattimore said. “If we put in the work in the film room and in the weight room, we’ve got a good shot at winning it.”
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Lattimore played high school football at Byrnes High School and made the 30-minute drive to Fluor Field in Greenville with his family. An estimated 600 to 800 people turned out for the Fan Fest’s fourth stop across the state.
The crowd heard from softball coach Beverly Smith, volleyball’s Scott Swanson, men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn, as well as Spurrier. Lattimore’s talk was the grand finale.
He told folks that he’s now majoring in public health and has made stronger legs a priority in the weight room.
“I missed two and a half games because I wasn’t strong enough,” he said. “I was taking a lot of carries. I had to get my legs stronger, get more flexible.”
His most satisfying game last year was the 36-14 win over Florida game in which he had 40 carries for 212 yards and three scores.
“It was good. There were 90,000 people out there and we just shut the whole crowd up,” he said.
Lattimore finished his freshman campaign with 1,609 total yards and a USC single-season touchdown record with 19.
As he’s done in previous Gamecock Club stops, Spurrier called Lattimore the “best running back in the nation.” Spurrier also praised the team’s instate recruiting efforts that included landing the nation’s No. 1 prospect this year, South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
“Jadeveon Clowney believes we can win big at the University of South Carolina,” Spurrier said. “I admire Jadeveon, and hopefully he’s going to take us to the top as well as lot of other players we have.”
Spurrier continued to hint that suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia is on track to return to the team sometime this summer, but said it’s “not a definite.”
“Stephen Garcia in all likelihood will probably may be given another chance if he behaves himself,” Spurrier said. “If he’s not there, Connor Shaw is a very good quarterback and ready to play.”
Spurrier noted to the Greenville crowd that the USC vs. Clemson game is in Columbia this season.
“That’s always a fun one, I know, for the people here in the Upstate," he said. "They don’t play very well sometimes when they play us. Hopefully that will continue.”
Spurrier and Horn both thanked Dodie Anderson for her financial contribution to the school’s $13 million academic center. Anderson, a Greer resident and the center’s namesake, was in attendance Wednesday.
Horn touted a stronger 2011-12 schedule as well as all three of his incoming signees: Damien Leonard, Anthony Gill and Brenton Williams.
Horn said Leonard, who played high school at nearby J.L. Mann High School, will be given the chance to make an impact this season.
“That young man can flat shoot the basketball, and his light will be as green as these chairs you’re sitting in,” Horn said.
The final two Fan Fest events are next week: USC-Sumter (Tuesday) and Darlington Raceway (May 25).