How Marcus Lattimore's Decision to Go Pro Impacts South Carolina's 2013 Offense

Randy ChambersAnalyst IDecember 10, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 08:  Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs with the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Sad news has come out of South Carolina that running back Marcus Lattimore has decided he will take his chances in the NFL.

The Gamecocks' star runner was one of the most popular players in the country and played a big role in helping this program turn the corner under head coach Steve Spurrier.

After suffering two serious knee injuries, Lattimore has decided that the risk to leave for the next level is worth it.

While everybody wishes him the best with this next step in life, what happens to the South Carolina offense now?

Well, pretty much the same thing that was going to happen before this news broke.

Even if Lattimore had stayed with the team, there was no guarantee that he would have played at all during the 2013 season. We are talking about an extensive injury to his right knee that occurred less than two months ago. Even though the report indicates he doesn't need crutches and is ahead of schedule with his rehab, this isn't something you just get up and walk away from.

Regardless of which team Lattimore ends up on, NFL coaching staffs understand that there is a good chance he will miss his entire rookie year. Having him return to South Carolina would have been no different, as he would have missed at least a chunk of games starting in 2013.

The Gamecocks will also lose fifth-year senior Kenny Miles, who is currently second on the team in rushing yards.

This means that South Carolina will have a running back by committee until somebody is able to emerge from the pack. Mike Davis will likely be the front-runner, as he has averaged over five yards a carry and has shown he can be that power running back to take pressure off of quarterback Connor Shaw.

Other guys that will battle for carries include Brandon Wilds, Kendric Salley, Shon Carson and Joshua Blue. All of those running backs have talent to make a name for themselves, but have proven little in their time on campus.

The good thing is that the Gamecocks will have Shaw, an experienced quarterback who will help lead the way. However, he has always been able to have that rock at running back that he can lean on when times get tough.

He has never quite been a quarterback that will light you up in the air. Shaw has benefited from a solid running game and has done a great job of using play-action fakes to open up the defense.

Until somebody steps up and shows they can become that workhorse guy that can help carry the load, the pressure will continue to fall on Shaw as the signal-caller. In three of the four losses South Carolina has suffered the last two seasons, the offense has failed to rush for at least 100 yards.

This is a team that relies heavily on defense, but needs the running game to be effective in order to win games.

The Gamecocks knew it had question marks on offense once Lattimore went down for a second time. But with absolutely no chance of him walking out of that tunnel again, the urgency to find a reliable running back has now increased greatly.