Marcus Lattimore is the most important player on the Gamecocks' roster. For South Carolina to have the kind of year the fans have been craving for decades, Lattimore must remain healthy throughout the season. I'm not suggesting that an injury to Stephen Garcia or Alshon Jeffery, or, say, Devin Taylor, wouldn't have its own impact, but no player is more critical to the success of the South Carolina Gamecocks than Marcus Lattimore.
Take last season, for instance. The Gamecocks finished 9-5. I firmly believe that had Lattimore been healthy for the entirety of the Kentucky and Florida State games, South Carolina would be coming off of an 11-3 season. Now, had we beaten Kentucky, we may have gone to a more prestigious bowl game and not have been playing against the Seminoles in Atlanta. Regardless, the latter illustrates how critical each game is and how important it is for Lattimore to escape injury and be healthy against legitimate competition for "the big year" to occur. There is no replacing his ability to gain yards on the ground. The good news is that he's added about fifteen pounds or more since last season in order to help him withstand the beating taken over the course of the season. It doesn't make him invincible, but it helps. The other pieces are in place. The Gamecocks are deep at WR, have a fifth-year senior QB and a serviceable backup, and possess one of the best defensive lines in the country to go along with a strong corps of guys behind them.
I've heard multiple fans express feelings of nerves about the approaching season. It's in our blood to worry that our hopes will be smashed, but, the truth is, we've never had this much talent accumulated at one time before. Don't be concerned about the team choking. The coaches have recruited well. Talent produces confidence. The team's worked hard in the offseason and knows what it's capable of. The only thing that can stop South Carolina from doing something special this year is something no one in this world can control - an injury bug. Perhaps I'm bringing up the obvious concern with this article, but it's a great boat to be in. Every title contending team that's ever won a championship has had this worry. It may have come in different terms, but it's been there, nonetheless. I worry much more when we've got to hope and pray for magic to happen against a couple of teams in order to get to a good bowl game. I'll take knowing we've got the talent to do something great and merely hope we stay healthy to wishing on a prayer that a less talented group of players can pull a rabbit out of a hat a few times in a given season. We're finally good, folks. We just need a healthy Lattimore to be great.