Auburn or South Carolina? Decision Time for Marcus Lattimore

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IJanuary 26, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 28:  Cocky, the South Carolina Gamecocks mascot celebrates a first half touchdown against the Clemson Tigers at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In a previous article, I gave several reasons why I thought Marcus Lattimore would pick one particular university on his list. That university made it to his final two choices. He is set to make his choice at his church on Feb 2.

The South Carolina staff is putting on the full-court press for this young man. The local media has pulled out the stops and gotten serious. The Internet is full of negative posts that he might even think of going out of state, such as here and here.

While I understand such emotions, what is the benefit to Lattimore? It seems everyone is asking him to sacrifice for them. What are they offering in return? When one reminds Marcus Lattimore of the benefits of an in-state education, exactly what are they talking about?

It seems the idea is if he just sacrifices his chance of having a professional football career, he can then be assured of his state taking care of him. I wonder how much of a generous offer this is.

Why is it that Lattimore will be less of a citizen of South Carolina if he chooses to get his education out of state? There are hundreds of thousands of South Carolina citizens who did just that. They brought that education back to the state and contributed.

So what is different about Lattimore? He has an extraordinary talent that might allow him to play professional football in the future. The people of South Carolina want him to use that to entertain them on Saturdays.

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There is nothing wrong with this. It might even be Lattimore's choice. If he chooses another path, does that mean he is turning his back on South Carolina? In my opinion, this is simply ludicrous.

If he had an extraordinary musical talent would the people of South Carolina be against him choosing to be educated at Julliard?

It is obvious that he thinks highly of his state. He has narrowed his choices to South Carolina and Auburn. 

South Carolina would not even be on his list if he did not think highly of them. No one needs to think of why a running back would choose Auburn. They are Running Back University.

People have said Lattimore will be helping his community by staying in state. This is not necessarily true. If he stays in state and his talent is never developed, he will not have an NFL career. This will cost him millions of dollars, much of which would be contributed to the community.

Most NFL players who make it to the big-contract level contribute mightily to the communities where they grew up. Lattimore cannot do this if he never makes it to the NFL. If he chooses South Carolina, he will be taking a huge chance.

During five seasons at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier has not fielded even one 1,000-yard rusher. In 12 seasons at Florida, he fielded only three. There has been one running back drafted into the NFL from South Carolina since 1992.

South Carolina now has three four-star running backs, and none of them have produced. The South Carolina rushing attack is 91st in the nation. Is this due to non-production from untalented running backs?

Simply put, the answer is no. These running backs average around five yards per carry. The South Carolina rushing attack averages only 3.2 yards per carry. Why is this?

South Carolina prefers to run the quarterback. His runs and sacks count against the rushing statistics. So, while the running backs have been effective, they were not used. The preference was toward the quarterback.

This has always been a Steve Spurrier trait. He recruits and plays great quarterbacks and gets great production from them. If Lattimore were a quarterback, this would be great.

Lattimore is a great running back. Can he, under Steve Spurrier's system, develop the jaw-dropping skill it takes to get to the NFL, when three other four-star recruits have failed? If he chooses South Carolina, time will tell.

Auburn has had four head coaches since 1992. Current head coach Gene Chizik has only been there one season. How has Auburn done for running backs during that time?

Auburn has sent nine running backs to the NFL since 1992. Gene Chizik has sent one running back to the NFL in his first year. In five years at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier has produced 13 100-yard rushing games for a running back. Auburn equaled that in 2009 alone.

Auburn's average leading running back has averaged 1,055 yards per year over the last five years. South Carolina has had none during that time. 

Ben Tate graduated from Auburn this year with 3,300 career yards rushing. He was a four-star running back out of high school. He is now off to play in the NFL. Auburn's freshman four-star running back Ontario McCalebb gained 606 yards while being used sparingly due to injuries.

Gus Malzhan, offensive coordinator at Auburn, has fielded a 1,000-yard running back every season he has coached. Several of those running backs are currently playing in the NFL. His system requires a minimum of three good running backs to split the 50-plus rushing plays per game. 

On the roster at Auburn now for running backs is Dontae Aycock.

On the roster at Auburn now for scat back/speed back is Ontario McCalebb.

On the roster at Auburn now for H-back/tight end are Mario Fannin, Philip Lutzenkirchen, and Eric Smith.

There are more running backs on the South Carolina roster than at Auburn. South Carolina also has as many running backs targeted for this recruiting class as Auburn.

This is the choice Lattimore faces. He can be the talented piano player who stayed at home and played in the local church, or the concert pianist who developed his skill to its peak. The choice is really that different.

Should friends and neighbors see Lattimore as betraying his local roots if he decides to develop his talent? Should anyone begrudge this young man for making a choice for his future? 

No matter what choice he makes, I think we all need to support this young man in his decision. There was a very ugly bashing handed out when Eric Mack chose his path. I don't think he deserved it, and I hope Marcus Lattimore will not face the same.


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