It's the question burning inside every South Carolina coach, player and fan, sizzling and simmering more and more with each passing day: What sort of impact can Marcus Lattimore make on this football team as a freshman?

At this point, a week into camp and a day after the first practice in full pads, there are only indications and projections.

Lattimore's head coach had a positive prediction following his first college practice.

"He's been here since June 1," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said, "so he'll be ready for the first game."

Even in that, though, there's no way of knowing what exactly to expect.

The earmarks of success, and immediate success, are there. And that's something. Particularly when it's noticedand noted by position coach Jay Graham, a 1,000-yard rusher at Tennessee a little more than a decade ago.

"He's bigger; he's 217-220 pounds," said Graham, crucial in recruiting Lattimore. "He's fast; he can run away from you. He can run between tackles. He works very hard, in addition to being athletically talented. He has a desire. He wants to be really good. His actions show it.

"That combination, right there, it's the combination to be very successful."

The answers will come, gradually and slowly, beginning in the Sept. 2 opener and throughout the fall. The waiting really is the hardest part, to see what the highly heralded back from Byrnes High School can provide a team that's starved for a top-notch runner.

"It's all potential," Graham said. "We'll see what happens. He's still a freshman. He has an uphill battle. You've got to find out who you're going to be on the college level. I don't care how good you were in high school. You were the best guy on the field; now you're a guy on the field -- maybe."

The good news is it's not as if Lattimore is being solely depended upon.

Brian Maddox is a senior who led the team with six rushing touchdowns last season. Sophomore Kenny Miles emerged as the starter and rushed for a team-high 626 yards in 2009. Jarvis Giles is a sophomore wild card, the stud runner expected to do big things this time last year.

"It's whatever's best for the team," Lattimore said. "That's how we all feel. If Kenny's best for the team, he's going to play. The same for Jarvis, Brian, (Bryce) Sherman ... or me."

(Notice how he mentioned himself last?)

Together, that stable is hopeful of digging South Carolina out of the pit in SEC rushing yards. The Gamecocks have been last in the league the past three seasons.

There was the bright note that Miles averaged 5.4 yards a carry last season. And the qualifier that the Gamecocks lost 254 rushing yards, because of 37 sacks allowed.

Still, without question, there's plenty of room for improvement -- and a hope that Lattimore is the one who will help the most in the improvement.

How high are the expectations? Lattimore was walking across campus last week when someone yelled out to him.

"I expect 3,000 yards this year," the guy said.

Lattimore, whose own goal is 1,000 yards, just nodded and laughed.

"OK," he said, trudging on.

It's been a decent first week for Lattimore. He showed some speed and smarts catching passes out of the backfield, one of his best qualities considering he's a pretty big back. But he also fumbled a couple of balls, one of his biggest drawbacks coming to college.

Lattimore, too, was welcomed to SEC football all week by his defensive teammates, who took it upon themselves to shove him down or hit him whenever they could. (D.J. Swearinger had the hardest knock, on Thursday. Lattimore got his revenge Saturday, bulldozing Swearinger for a TD during a drill.)

They're working, consciously and subconsciously, to keep the freshman in his place.

Really, though, he's pretty good at doing that on his own. He says he's used to the spotlight that's followed him around or about three years.

"It seems like he's handling it well," Graham said. "He's been the same guy through the recruiting process. That hasn't changed. Really, he's been dealing with it for a long time -- probably since his sophomore year in high school.

"He's kind of just been the same guy. He works hard. He concentrates on his goals, things that are ahead of him. He just doesn't get caught up in the moment."

A strong family has helped Lattimore stay grounded. Lattimore said he expects Graham to take over that role, now that he's away from home.

Getting caught up happens to a lot of talented guys. Just ask Derek Watson. Just ask Demetris Summers.

Lattimore distances himself from them, without having to do so. It's glaringly obvious he is them on the field and isn't them off it. File that, again, under reasons why he has a real chance at success at USC. Perhaps even right away.

"He's a humble kid, you know," Graham said. "He thinks this is how it's supposed to be, that this is what he's supposed to do. I think that's important. He's not looking for a pat on the back. This is who he is. This is what he does."

Extra points

DT Melvin Ingram sprained his ankle during an 11-on-11 drill, Spurrier said. Spurrier wasn't too concerned about the injury, though. ...With Kenny Miles (hamstring) still out, sophomore Jarvis Giles was the first RB in for team drills. ... TE Weslye Saunders and WR Alshon Jeffery had good nights in those team sessions. Saunders earned praise from Spurrier.