Marcus Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards last season as a true freshman, which was third-best in the SEC.
Lattimore was the hyped, blue-chip prospect, an anticipated offensive game-changer, similar to what Georgia's five-star freshman is facing upon his first season in Athens.
After 1,197 yards, 17 touchdowns, an SEC East title and SEC freshman of the year honors, it’s safe to say Lattimore met the hype.
Did he expect that of himself?
“I really didn’t,” Lattimore said Wednesday during South Carolina’s appearance at SEC media days. “I got to play every game a good bit, and I kind of did exceed my exceptions.”
So what is Lattimore’s advice to an incoming player like Crowell?
“Everybody is going to come at you different ways, want you to do this and that,” Lattimore said. “Are you going to do this or that? Just be yourself. That’s what I’d tell him. Just be yourself, and you’ll be fine. It’s worked up until college. Don’t change anything.”
After his freshman heroics, Lattimore enters his sophomore season rated among the nation’s best at his position.
In some ways, his situation mirrors that of South Carolina’s entire team, which is coming off the school’s first divisional title and looking for more in 2011 amid raised hopes, even in its own locker room.
“Talk about the national championship wasn’t going on a couple of years ago,” Lattimore said, “but now it is. We’ve got a shot to do it.”
“We've got a ways to go to really be a good team,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday. “Hopefully our guys know that. But we do have some good players. All summer, I said Marcus Lattimore is the best running back in the country, and Alshon Jeffery is the best, in my opinion, receiver in the country.”
In addition to those returning stars, the Gamecocks signed the nation’s top prospect in defensive lineman Jadevon Clowney, who Spurrier said “will be out there early and often, and we think he’s going to be a super player.”
“I think it's nice to have the magazines say we've got a chance,” Spurrier said. “Some of them are picking us to win the East. We know that Georgia, Tennessee and Florida were down last year. That's what gave us hope and probably the big reason we won the East last year.
“Whether or not they'll be down this year, only time will tell.”
Spurrier did offer a reminder that South Carolina lost its final two games last season, “so we’re not sitting around patting ourselves on the back too much.”
“We stretched our dimensions a little bit, but we've not hit where we believe we can go yet,” Spurrier said. “And so we're still battling to win the game in Atlanta. If you can win the one in Atlanta, you can go on and win the national. It's been proven the last five years.
"We just talk about trying to win the east, win the game in Atlanta. We'll see if we can do it.”