Fast, powerful, skillful, and…unlucky; these are the adjectives that describe South Carolina Junior Runningback, Marcus Lattimore. He showed great promise as a freshman, rushing for over a 1,000-yards in his first season as a tailback for the Gamecocks. However, his ascent to an elite college football player was halted by an ACL injury in his sophomore season, and then another gruesome multiple ligament injury in his last year as a Gamecocks. In all three seasons, Lattimore still managed to rack up double digit rushing touchdowns, despite an injury shortened year. Here I will describe my observations on Lattimore’s game tape of both his sophomore and junior season.
6”0, 218 lbs.
Marcus Lattimore possesses the qualities of a great running back. He may not have 4.2 – 40 speed, but his breakaway runs are difficult to stop by defenders. Lattimore has quick lateral cutting speed and a good change of direction, which causes tacklers to mistime their tackles. He showed sudden bursts from the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, Lattimore runs with great pad levels, consistently lowering his pads to avoid big hits by defenders, and in turn can deliver a blow to oncoming opponents. He runs angry and finished his runs with power, though not a punishing type of run. Marcus Lattimore possessed good hands and caught most passes from out of the backfield. In the open field he was difficult to take down. Lattimore has nice pass protection abilities, being able to recognize pass rushers well. He was also a proactive blocker, meaning instead of waiting to identify defenders coming at the QB, he actively sought out unblocked rushers. He continues to grow in his games every season, making the necessary adjustment to his previous weaknesses.
The first and major concern about Lattimore is his latest injuries. Marcus has missed consecutive seasons due to season ending injuries. Both injuries are quite difficult to come back from, even for the pros. His latest injury was a rare one, and will call into question whether he will reinjure it in the future or not. The effect of his first ACL injury was apparent in Lattimore’s 2012 game tapes. He was not as fast as he was pre-injury. However, there is hope as he was cutting quite effectively (change of direction and cutting are one of the hardest thing and probably the last thing to overcome after an ACL injury). Yet, teams will have to monitor how he does after a multiple ligament tears. Although Lattimore ran with great pad levels, there were times where he lost his balance, diving forward too early and missing any would-be tacklers.
ACL (2011), multiple ligament injury [ACL, MCL, PCL] (2012)
Teams will hedge their bets with Marcus Lattimore to minimize risk. He was not able to participate in the NFL Combine, and it is unlikely that he will participate in his Pro Day either. There is a feeling that Lattimore will not be able to contribute in the 2013 season, and instead will focus on his rehab. However, there is enough tape of Lattimore for teams to be excited about his potential when healthy. The plus for Lattimore is that he went through the rehabilitation process once before, and came back productive. He will be especially be great for teams who can wait for him to heal up, such as the Giants, Patriots, Chargers, etc. It is believed that he can fit in any type of offense, but a power running scheme might be the best fit.
A fourth round pick seems to be the earliest that would make sense for teams to take him.
Grade: current 6.5/when healthy 8.0