South Carolina Football: Running-Back Options After Injury to Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina was dealt a huge blow to their hopes of repeating as SEC East champions when Marcus Lattimore was injured during the Mississippi State game.
Lattimore suffered a torn ligament and cartilage damage while blocking for Bruce Ellington during the fourth quarter of the Gamecocks' win over Mississippi State.
The Gamecocks are without their star running back for the rest of the 2011 season. He's a big part of this offense's identity and now leaves Steve Spurrier scratching his head trying to find his options behind him.
There has already been a season-ending injury to true freshman Shon Carson, and backup fullback Matt Coffee suffered a knee injury in the Mississippi State game and is lost for the season as well.
The options are dwindling for the Gamecocks, but here are the names you need to know going forward as the people who look to replace the production of Marcus Lattimore.
RB Brandon Wilds
The Gamecocks' best option at running back now is true freshman Brandon Wilds.
Wilds has emerged as the backup running back to Marcus Lattimore over the last few weeks with his production on the field.
He has rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. He also has three catches for 21 yards for an average of seven yards per catch.
The numbers may not look impressive, but his size of 223 pounds while standing 6'1" gives him a bigger build to be able to withstand the punishing defenders of the SEC.
Wilds has a surprising burst of speed for someone his size and has reliable hands out the backfield as well.
He'll be counted on more than ever now with Lattimore out for the rest of the season.
It's a good thing he decided not to redshirt this year.
WR/KR Bruce Ellington
You may wonder why a wide receiver/kick returner is on the list as an option to replace Marcus Lattimore at running back.
Well, Ellington is Mr. Versatility for the Gamecocks and he showed off his array of talents against Mississippi State.
Ellington had four carries for 25 yards, four receptions for 32 yards, threw for 24 yards on 2-of-3 passing, and had one kickoff return for 17 yards.
He lines up in the "Wildcat" formation for the Gamecocks and has a burst of speed that's crucial out of the backfield wherever he lines up. Ellington had a 61-yard touchdown run off of a direct snap against Kentucky, where he got to the corner and took off untouched towards the end zone.
South Carolina will more than likely have the "Wildcat" formation involved in their offense now that Lattimore is gone for the season. This can give Ellington a chance to make a play and give the Gamecocks a speed option in the backfield to help the ground game for the South Carolina.
Don't be surprised if Bruce Ellington lines up at running back in the near future, either. He's done everything else this year, so might as well add running back to his repertoire.
RB Kenny Miles
This is where things start to get a bit uncertain for South Carolina.
Kenny Miles is a veteran backup with starting experience for the Gamecocks, but he's been suffered from a wrist injury the past few weeks. It's limited his practice time and he's seen little playing time on the field for South Carolina in 2011.
The hope is Miles will be able to recover enough during the upcoming bye week to be available when South Carolina takes on Tennessee.
Miles started the majority of games for South Carolina in 2009 where he rushed for 626 yards on 117 carries for an average of 5.4 yards a carry. He started seven games at running back for the Gamecocks that year.
He's got the experience and has just enough talent to be a threat in the running game for South Carolina. He can be a consistent producer for the Gamecocks.
The only problem is they need him healthy.
RB Eric Baker
Eric Baker is another running back who is in a similar situation as Kenny Miles for the Gamecocks.
Baker came to Columbia as a highly-rated running back out of prep school in 2008 and saw limited action in the 2008 season.
He rushed 46 times that season for 182 yards in nine games in 2008. He also had nine receptions for 109 yards that season as well.
This is where Baker's rough luck started. He suffered a hernia in the summer of 2009 that limited his availability for the fall season and he fell behind several running backs like Kenny Miles. He would then tear his ACL during bowl practices later that year that caused him to miss all of the 2010 season.
It appeared Baker was finally healthy for the Gamecocks for the 2011 season, but his bad luck struck once again. Baker has suffered from a sprained ankle the last few weeks and has barely seen the field yet again for South Carolina.
Baker has three carries this year for three yards.
He's a versatile back with good speed and good hands who would be a nice spark off the bench if he can return to full health.
There is a chance he could be ready to play against Tennessee with some rest during the bye week.