Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/28/12
It seems like it's been a few years since football fans witnessed South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier letting a young Marcus Lattimore run loose with a variety of zone reads to befuddle SEC defenses. But it's only been nine months. An ACL tear sidelined the 6-foot-1, 232-pound Lattimore midway through the 2011 season far too soon for the Gamecock faithful to stomach and it's easy to forget Lattimore's consistent production in the shadow of previous SEC contemporaries Trent Richardson and Michael Dyer, both of whom have since moved on. And, for a mere seven games, Lattimore sure put up some numbers. He racked up 818 yards and 10 touchdowns before being taken off the field in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State. Those totals were good enough to finish seventh in the league in rushing last season. In 2012, he enters the season as the marquee name among a group of running backs decimated by graduation or transfer. And so, despite playing a half a season, Lattimore's 2011 numbers were third-best among the conference's returning running backs. Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy is the top returning rusher from last season, while Alabama's Eddie Lacy will be eager to shed the shadow of the Heisman finalist Richardson. And that's not to forget the other marquee name making his return to the gridiron this season, Knile Davis, the talented Arkansas back who suffered a season-ending ankle injury last year. Stacy, Davis and Lacy are all expected to have big seasons for their respective programs, but none bigger than Lattimore, who is reported to be healthy and ready to shine. If Lattimore is indeed at full strength, Spurrier and the Gamecocks will feel even better about their chances of reclaiming the SEC East throne. It's hard to argue with more than 2,000 career yards and 27 touchdowns, especially when that argument's being made for a rising junior. Is Lattimore the best back in the SEC? Peek inside for our list of the top 10 backs in the conference.
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