Losing running back Marcus Lattimore to another major injury is a huge blow to No. 8 South Carolina with three games left in the regular season. While no single player will be able to replace him, the Gamecocks' depth should keep them on a winning track.
As South Carolina found out last season, it's hard to gauge Lattimore's amazing value until he's gone. He's the definition of a game-changing back. Filling the void is going to take a complete team effort starting next Saturday against Arkansas.
The dynamic junior had gained 835 total yards and scored 11 touchdowns before getting hurt last week. One of the few silver linings is that South Carolina is off this week, giving players a chance to get acclimated with their new roles.
Senior back Kenny Miles will likely lead a committee approach in the backfield, which will also feature promising freshman Mike Davis, who's averaging more than six yards per carry in limited action this season.
Due to his extra experience, Miles should handle a bulk of the load, at least to start. The dash to the finish features three crucial games for South Carolina and relying heavily on a freshman in those type of situations is always a risk.
Miles has been a constant presence in the Gamecocks offense over the past four seasons, so he knows what it's like to go up against an SEC defense. He can't be expected to produce at Lattimore's level, but he should be a viable replacement.
Davis should find himself in a change-of-pace role. While there's no doubting his talent or long-term potential, his production has been inconsistent when given chances this season, as is the case for most freshman getting their first taste of college action.
Can the Gamecocks win out without Lattimore?
Between the two rushers, South Carolina should be able to build a pretty productive ground game. The passing attack, led by quarterback Connor Shaw, must pick up some of the slack as well.
Shaw doesn't get the type of attention he deserves for playing a key role in the team's success. He's completing 66 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions. The junior is also coming off a 356-yard performance against Tennessee.
His job is about to get a lot tougher, though. Without Lattimore in the backfield to strike fear in opposing defenses, they are more likely to drop a couple players into coverage, making the passing lanes much more narrow for Shaw.
The Georgia native and his talented targets, including Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington, must find ways to stretch the field and keep defenses on their heels.
Striking the right amount of balance is the only way for the Gamecocks offense to succeed without Lattimore.
It won't be easy, but they have the talent to get it done.