Steve Spurrier is expecting “another super year” out of sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore is aiming higher. Last year’s national freshman of the year wants to win the Heisman Trophy, and he’s not shy about telling people that.
“I have a legitimate shot at winning it, and it’s a dream,” said Lattimore, who rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. “It’s something I have dreamed about all the time. It would mean a lot, to be honest with you.”
Lattimore is a Heisman contender, but not a top-shelf one, said Chris Huston, who publishes HeismanPundit.com. Huston’s preseason watch list contains 22 players.
“I wouldn’t put him in the upper category. I’d put him in the middle category,” Huston said. “He had a great freshman year. He built up name recognition during that time. It looks like he’s heading into this year with some momentum in that regard, and South Carolina looks like they could be good again.”
Lattimore has handicapped the Heisman race himself. He said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is the man to beat, “of course.” His other candidates are Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, Oregon running back LaMichael James, Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Auburn running back Michael Dyer, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Spurrier would love to see his running back in the mix.
“We’d have to have a big year and another big season,” he said. “I think he would certainly be one of the guys mentioned here this year or next year. Certainly, we would hope so.”
Lattimore added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and now weighs more than 230. Still, “I think I got a little bit faster,” he said.
Lattimore also is recognizing his pass-protection responsibilities more quickly this year, which may have been the only chink in his armor last season, when he set the school’s single-season touchdowns record and had the best season of any Gamecocks running back other than George Rogers.
“We are expecting him to have another super year and stay healthy,” Spurrier said. “He has beefed up a little bit — not too much, though — but he’s ready to play. Hopefully, he gets just as many carries and maybe more touchdowns. Who knows how it’s going to turn out? He’s a wonderful team guy; offseason workouts, he leads the way. He’s a super player that is also a super teammate.”
Rogers remains the only Gamecock to win the Heisman Trophy, and Lattimore faces an uphill battle to change that this season, Huston said.
“There’s kind a bit of class-status warfare when it comes to the Heisman,” he said. “If you play for certain schools, you have more weight behind your candidacy in general.”
The top schools for carrying a Heisman campaign are the Alabamas, Notre Dames, Southern Cals, Texases and Ohio States of the world, Huston said. Schools such as Tennessee and LSU fall into the second tier. South Carolina is a third-tier school in that ranking, Huston believes.
“If you switched Lattimore and put him on Alabama, people would probably be going crazy about him,” Huston said. “Look at Trent Richardson. Trent Richardson didn’t have nearly the year Marcus Lattimore did as a freshman, but he’s considered a candidate just like Marcus Lattimore.”