A tough week in Columbia, South Carolina, just got a whole lot tougher. After head coach Steve Spurrier kicked starting quarterback Stephen Garcia off the team for off-field issues, even more of the offensive load was placed on the shoulders of Heisman candidate running back Marcus Lattimore.
Steve Spurrier will be taking a lot of flack for his role in kicking Garcia of the squad now that Lattimore is out, but he shouldn't be taking any blame for the future offensive struggles of the Gamecocks. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, the offensive load will now be carried by backup quarterback Connor Shaw for an unknown future.
Nickoe Whitley tackled Marcus Lattimore in the fourth quarter on what seemed like a harmless play. The play saw Lattimore seem to hyper extend his leg and buckle it. Lattimore had to be helped off the field and left the game with a full leg brace and crutches. Early reports have the injury listed as a knee sprain, but obviously they will need to review the injury tomorrow morning.
This injury causes huge problems for Steve Spurrier's football team. Connor Shaw is a good quarterback, but despite his inflated numbers against a terrible Kentucky team, he is still a first time starter and just a sophomore. He isn't ready to be the full-fledged leader of this South Carolina football team. Lattimore's 779 yards (129 per game) and nine touchdowns leads the SEC, but without him the Gamecocks and freshman running back Brandon Wilds aren't ready to run defenses over.
The Gamecocks still have to face Clemson, Arkansas and Florida, and although those teams defenses aren't tops in the nation, the lack of an offensive standout on the South Carolina roster will prove costly in those games. All of the pressure is on the Gamecocks defense to perform now and limit oppositions to the minimum points possible.
Spurrier will struggle to get his team to put up points in the coming weeks, but Gamecocks fans should not be sour about his coaching ability. Spurrier had no way of knowing Lattimore would get hurt the same week he kicked Garcia off the team. The Garcia issue was a long time coming, and after five previous suspensions Garcia had to be gone. If any other big time college football program in the SEC had to deal with that many mistakes by a player, they would have kicked him off a long time ago. It is just a case of bad timing, and the fans of South Carolina football have no reason to be upset with head coach Steve Spurrier.
Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks are going to have a rough ride towards the end of the season and could even fall from 11th in the polls all the way out of the Top 25 if Lattimore cannot return and be effective, but to come back from such huge losses would be amazing, though unlikely, but it should not result in Spurrier's job coming into question.