HOOVER, Ala. -- South Carolina has not been ranked in a preseason Associated Press college football poll since Steve Spurrier took over at coach before the 2005 season.

The Gamecocks' best AP ranking in August?

No. 17 in 1970.

But the best reason South Carolina is a consensus top 20 pick this preseason looked great modeling lofty expectations Wednesday at SEC Media Days.

Better yet, sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore is stronger and more confident than ever.

Goals?

"Get more yards than I had last year," Lattimore said. "Get more touchdowns. I want to win the Heisman."

Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and scored 19 touchdowns while winning several national freshman of the year awards in 2010. Along with helping the Gamecocks successfully defend their SEC East title, the Duncan native thinks he can win one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports.

"I see George Rogers' Heisman Trophy every day," Lattimore said. "That's something I dream about, just to bring it home to the University of South Carolina."

Rogers rushed for 1,894 yards in 12 games in 1980 and won the Heisman.

Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and scored 19 TDs as a freshman, as the Gamecocks went 9-5 and won the program's first SEC East title.

"Marcus always has a smile, but he's a great leader," said senior defensive tackle Travian Robertson, who joined Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as South Carolina's player representatives at SEC Media Days. "I look up to him and I know a lot of other guys do, too."

Lattimore during the offseason usually has been one of the first Gamecocks in the weight room and one of the last to leave. He also often voluntarily participated in early morning running workouts designed for players doing punishment laps.

The better to stave off injury, Lattimore believes.

"We have the talent on this team to do something special," Lattimore said. "We just have to finish. We just have to stay together as a family."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593.