The Associated Press confirmed Monday what every South Carolina fan has known for a while — Marcus Lattimore is the best freshman in the SEC.
Lattimore, the No. 19 Gamecocks’ first-year tailback, was a unanimous selection by the media as the conference’s freshman of the year. He also kept conference champion Auburn from sweeping the individual awards.
Tigers quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley were named the offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Auburn’s Gene Chizik was named coach of the year two days after his team beat South Carolina 56-17 for the SEC title.
Lattimore was joined on the first team by Gamecocks wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive end Devin Taylor. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was named to the second team.
None of the South Carolina honorees was available Monday for comment, a school spokesperson said. The university begins final exams this week.
Lattimore is USC’s first conference freshman of the year since wide receiver Sidney Rice in 2005. Safety Ko Simpson (2004) and quarterback Steve Tanneyhill (1992) also earned the honor. Lattimore is the first Gamecocks running back to be named first-team All-SEC since Duce Staley in 1996.
Lattimore led SEC running backs with 1,198 rushing yards. He has had the third-best rushing season in school history, trailing George Rogers’ 1980 (1,894) and 1979 (1,681) seasons, and he set the school’s single-season record for touchdowns with 19.
“We knew Marcus was an outstanding running back,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said before Monday’s announcement. “We didn’t know he could carry the team in several big games the way he has this year. He has been the guy we just kept giving the ball to.”
Jeffery, a sophomore, led the SEC and set a USC single-season record with 1,387 receiving yards. Taylor, a sophomore, was fourth in the SEC and second on the team with 7.5 sacks.
Gilmore led USC in tackles with 71.