COLUMBIA -- Running back Marcus Lattimore’s South Carolina football career is over, according to ESPN, which reported Monday that he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.
USC has not officially announced anything yet about Lattimore’s status.
Lattimore suffered a season-ending right knee injury Oct. 27 against Tennessee. He tore multiple ligaments after taking a helmet to the knee. In 2011, Lattimore suffered a season-ending left knee injury. The right knee injury was more severe, and because of how late in the season he suffered it, he might have to sit out most or all of the 2013 season.
Lattimore, one of the most beloved players in USC history, finishes his college career with 555 carries for 2,677 yards and 38 touchdowns. He scored 41 total touchdowns. His rushing touchdown total was seven better than the old school record and his total touchdowns were eight more than the previous USC record.
Lattimore’s best season was his only full season, 2010, when, as a true freshman, he ran 249 times for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. Many observers expected him to be a Heisman Trophy candidate in his final two seasons. But he played in seven games in 2011 before getting hurt and nine games in 2012.
While NFL running backs typically have short shelf lives, and Lattimore faces a challenging rehabilitation, several running backs have come back from ligament tears and gone on to have successful professional careers, including Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers and Willis McGahee of the Denver Broncos.
Like Lattimore, McGahee suffered multiple ligament tears in his final college game, the national championship game for the 2002 season. Still, he turned pro, was the No. 23 overall pick and sat out the entire 2003 season while recovering. In the next four seasons, he ran for 1,128, 1,247, 990 and 1,207 yards, and became of the NFL’s highest-paid running backs.
Lattimore was considered a late first round or early second round pick before his injury, though he probably will not be selected that high now.
His departure for the NFL doesn’t change anything, really, about USC’s tailback situation for 2013. This year’s No. 2 tailback, Kenny Miles, is a fifth-year senior, so he won’t be back. And Lattimore was unlikely to begin the 2013 season healthy enough to play anyway.
So USC will begin 2013 leaning on Mike Davis. As a true freshman this season, Davis has 52 carries for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He was the highest-rated recruit in USC’s Class of 2012.
USC will also bring back Brandon Wilds, who played as a true freshman in 2011 after Lattimore got hurt, but redshirted this season. Shon Carson carried just three times as a true freshman in 2011 before suffering an anterior cruciate ligament tear. He did not play at all in 2012 because of a wrist injury, but should be recovered for 2013.
USC’s other current scholarship running back is Kendric Salley, who redshirted as a freshman this season. USC’s only running back commitment for the recruiting Class of 2013 is from Jamari Smith, who is ranked the No. 40 running back nationally by Rivals.