Marcus Lattimore is one of the top running backs in all of college football–when healthy. Lattimore missed over half of the 2011 season after tearing his knee up in October. Prior to missing time, Lattimore was having an up-and-down 2011 campaign after completely taking the college football world by storm as a true freshman in 2010. As a frosh, Lattimore had 1,197 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, but that’s not the extent of his game. He looked well beyond his years in terms of his pass catching abilities, hauling in 29 passes for 412 yards and two more scores. Because of his size, he is very hard for defenders to take down, especially on initial contact, but he’s not as powerful of a back as you would expect for someone who is over 230 pounds. He is elusive in the open field and able to make defenders miss pretty easily, which is impressive at his size. He has excellent burst and is very decisive with his cuts and with the hole he is hitting. His quickness to the edge is elite, and he can make something out of nothing in a hurry. There are times when you are watching him where he makes a busted run up the middle look like it was designed to go outside because of how quick he is. I don’t see him running in the 4.3 or maybe even 4.4 range, but his quickness and agility are up there among some of the best backs I’ve seen.
Very good student and has those intangibles that you look for. Going to have to work really hard to get back to full strength from that ACL injury, but for a prospect, that’s not the worst thing because you can come back from those types of injuries bigger, better, stronger, and in better shape and with more time to dissect things off the field. For his position, it’s not a good injury to have on your resume’, especially because there is a decent chance of it potentially happening again, and that could drive down his status if he is unable to stay fully healthy for a season. South Carolina needs to do the right thing for his future and not rush him back just so they can compete in 2012. If he is rushed back before he’s ready, it could be a very short NFL career for him.
If he is healthy, he is a no-brainer first round prospect in my opinion. There are virtually no flaws to his overall game. He has the potential to be a 25-30 carry workhorse back in the NFL, and do it for a long time provided his knee holds up. I think the sky is the limit for Lattimore, who will go down as one of the best backs to play in college football.
I don’t care that Lattimore is not eligible until 2013 at the earliest, he is so freaking special that he needs to be written about. This man missed a game in 2010, and had one game where he had one carry for negative one yard, and he still managed a true freshman campaign that included 1,197 yards on 249 carries highlighted by 17 rushing touchdowns. He also showed that he is a man among boys in the passing game, where he caught 29 passes for 412 yards and two more touchdowns. He should be a leading Heisman Trophy candidate for the 2011 season, and is arguably the best overall running back in the country. He is the most complete back I have seen coming out since Adrian Peterson. He is very well built, powerful, and hard to bring down. Lattimore also has deceptive speed for his size, and he is a hard worker off the field. Just a big back with excellent power, who will be a very high draft pick in 2013 or 2014.
Johnson–one of the best centers in the country–is a three-year starter who has played in and started 40 games for the Gamecocks. Redshirted in 2008, but has been an impact player ever since then, earning Freshman All-SEC and All-American honors in 2009, first team All-SEC in 2010, and third team All-SEC in 2011. He has great size for a center, and he is a smart player who has been named to the Academic Honor Roll. One of the team leaders who is active on campus in FCA, and just an all-around high quality player who you want to have on your team. He should be a mid-late round selection in the draft unless he has an awesome showing in 2012, but he should be a very good player in the pros if he gets into the right situation. Has helped pave the way for one of the top ground games in the SEC.
One of the top defensive ends in his class, Taylor has been producing ever since he was a sophomore for the Gamecocks. He has great size for a base defensive end, and he can both stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback. As a sophomore, he had 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks, and he followed that up in 2011 as a junior with 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Really good in pursuit, a fantastic athlete, and his length allows him to recover quickly against linemen who otherwise might have the upper hand. Does a good job of getting his hands in the quarterbacks face, causing disruption in the passing lanes. Has some experience dropping back in coverage, and had an interception for a touchdown last season. He could be a candidate to play end/OLB in a 3-4 alignment. Has very good quickness and speed off the ball in passing situations. Could be an elite pass rusher at the NFL level if he works hard enough. Does a pretty good job of reading plays and the direction the play is developing. Knows when to stay home and when to push upfield. Can get caught guessing at times. Overall, he looks like a solid top 64 prospect who has a lot of upside as a pass rusher/base defensive end in a 4-3 or 3-4 alignment.
Big, lanky defensive end prospect who is nothing short of a playmaker. He burst on to the scene as a sophomore last year when he had 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, and an astounding 8 passes broken up. Taylor also had 11 quarterback hurries, and proved to be one of the most valuable pieces of the South Carolina defense. First team All-SEC selection who could add weight and become a dominant force at the defensive end position. Taylor is also on Phil Steele’s first team All-American list for the 2011 season, an indication of how much progress he made last year. Taylor also had an interception for a touchdown this past season against Tennessee. Only 19 career starts, but right now, he has the makings of a special player. He could really emerge in 2011 with the overall talent of the South Carolina defensive line.
The big linebacker/safety hybrid player followed up a very good sophomore season with a solid junior campaign, but he has really high expectations going into his senior season. As a junior, Holloman finished with 51 tackles, four tackles for loss, an interception, and four passes broken up. Missed two games last season, but he is expected to once again be a big contributor on a defense filled with talent despite losing some key pieces to the NFL. Holloman is the kind of guy who is versatile enough to play safety or linebacker at the NFL level, but with his size and athletic ability, he seems like an ideal outside linebacker. This is a very talented kid with good speed, athletic ability, and overall versatility. I could see him going in the first round if he has a big season in 2012, but more than likely, he will find himself drafted in the first three rounds without a major injury in 2012.
Former highly touted five star recruit who has been a solid contributor for the South Carolina defense since he stepped on campus, but he is ready for a breakout season. Last season, he had 62 tackles, a forced fumble, and two interceptions. South Carolina is planning to move Holloman to linebacker in 2011 as he will battle with Antonio Allen for the SPUR linebacker position. He is a great athlete with obvious tackling ability, but if nobody emerges at the strong safety position over the Spring, look for him to move back to safety. My best guess is that he will come back to the Gamecocks for a senior season, but if he has as big a season as he is capable of, he could be an early entrant.
Swearinger was due for a breakout season, and as a junior in 2011, he had it. With 80 tackles and three interceptions, he was one of the unsung heroes of a very good South Carolina defense. He finished the year as the starting “Free safety” for the Gamecocks, but he is a very versatile player that can play a variety of positions. He sat out the Spring with a foot injury, but he should be back and ready to go in 2012 after playing in all 40 games of his USC career. Player with very good closing speed who should be one of the top safety prospects when the draft rolls around, I expect him to be a starter in the NFL eventually, though his position is one of the hardest to transition to. He can play all over the secondary and contribute on special teams, but I envision him getting a full-time starting gig at free safety in the NFL. He has improving ball skills and he is a fearless hitter. He should be a second or third round pick barring injury.
Hard hitting safety who is still very raw, but he has a ton of potential. As a sophomore, he had a very solid all-around season with 66 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. He also had two tackles for a loss, and showed that he is capable of being a solid kick returner (five returns for 21.8 yard average). Highly sought after high school recruit who is growing into his role in the South Carolina secondary. He has a long way to go in his development as an NFL player, so he could certainly be back for his senior year unless he has a huge junior season.
Solid cornerback prospect who injured his foot against Georgia last season, underwent season ending surgery, and was granted a medical hardship so he returns for a fifth season with the Gamecocks. Should be a leader of the secondary.
Auguste is a leader in the secondary with a lot of experience, but no interceptions to his name, which is a bit concerning. He has shown great versatility, starting at both safety at cornerback (where he will start in 2011). The USC secondary struggled last year, but with four returning starters, they should have some consistency. Last year as a free safety, he had 58 tackles and four for a loss. He’s not an elite NFL prospect, but he has some upside as a special teams player and reserve in the secondary.