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October 28, 2012

Spurrier, USC try to move forward

The 2014 season could be the next time Marcus Lattimore steps on the football field.

Even though coach Steve Spurrier declined on Sunday to discuss specifics of Lattimore's horrific injury suffered in the second quarter of Saturday's 38-35 victory over Tennessee, he confirmed the junior running back had a dislocated knee, the same injury incurred by freshman defensive back T.J. Gurley earlier this season.

"The knee sort of pops out of place, a dislocation," Spurrier said. "They got it back in place pretty quickly, though. Dr. (Jeffrey) Guy said it was back in quickly."

But Spurrier added it "remains to be seen" how long Lattimore's rehab from his second major knee injury will take, and didn't rule out the possibility of his recovery extending into 2014.

"Dr. Guy said there could be a chance (of a 2013 return), but there could be a chance that it could be two years down the road," Spurrier said. "It could be a full year of recovery. We'll have to wait and see, that's what he said. We'll take it one day at a time and allow the doctors and Marcus and a lot of prayers to do their work."

Early Sunday evening, USC released a statement stating Lattimore suffered a "significant impact to the front of his right knee" and the "ensuing hyperextension of the knee resulted in injury to several ligaments."

There were no fractures or additional injuries, according to Guy. Lattimore remains hospitalized and "will continue to be evaluated over the course of the week."

Lattimore has taken the first steps towards surgery as part of the 'prehabilitation' process and, according to the school, his eventual return to football.

Since Lattimore didn't redshirt as a freshman in 2010, he has two years of eligibility left to play his final season, or he could opt for the NFL.

"It's going to take a while, obviously, to recover and rehab this," Spurrier said. "But Marcus has a good attitude today. We saw him and talked with him. He knows what the road ahead is. We're all hoping and praying he will be back."

Spurrier said he and Lattimore have not discussed his long-range plans, contending the ultimate decision about his career lies with the well-respected player.

"Whatever the time frame of his recovery is, we have to wait and see, according to Dr. Guy," Spurrier said. "We're optimistic that his football days are still ahead of him. There is a history of guys coming back and playing from this type of knee injury.

"But Marcus speaks for himself. I don't speak for Marcus. He'll make his own decisions regarding what happens down the road."

In the short term, the ball-carrying responsibilities fall to Kenny Miles (149 yards) and Mike Davis (157), while the plans to redshirt Brandon Wilds could be scrapped. Miles, a fifth-year senior, ascends to the No. 1 running back slot for the Arkansas game on Nov. 10 at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"Kenny is number-one and Mike Davis is second," Spurrier said. "We'll certainly (dress) Brandon. If it looks like we need to play him, I think he will be able to play. Kenny Miles is our starting tailback now. (Of course) we'd rather have Marcus on our team, for dang sure.

"But in life, sometimes you have to move on with whatever hand you're dealt and try to do the best you can. Like we told the players (at halftime of Tennessee game), the best thing we can do is go win this game and give Marcus a game ball. We're fortunate that happened. We have to carry on."

Spurrier reiterated what USC running backs coach Everette Sands said last week - Shon Carson is sidelined for the season with the wrist injury he sustained in preseason camp.

Carson, who recently underwent surgery to remove pins from his wrist, has not practiced since the regular season started.

USC coaches and players visited Lattimore in the hospital Saturday following the game and on Sunday.

"He's doing better today than he was yesterday," Spurrier said.

Spurrier denied reports from some national writers that Lattimore suffered extensive damage and "everything was torn up" in his knee.

"No, I didn't get that kind of report," Spurrier said. "I've heard Willis McGahee's name mentioned as a guy who had a severe injury and came back. Players have come back from this injury and played for a long time. The diagnosis is he can come back and play. It will take some time, of course."

Spurrier deferred questions about the specifics of Lattimore's injury to Dr. Jeff Guy, the USC team doctor and an orthopaedic surgeon.

The local and national outpouring of support for Marcus Lattimore in the aftermath of the injury hasn't been a surprise to Spurrier.

"I truly believe Marcus could very possibly be the most popular South Carolina football that has ever been here," Spurrier said. "Not only his ability on the field, but off the field with his community work, hospital visits, children. He's a special young man that everybody appreciates."

Dozens of Tennessee players joined Gamecock players in circling around Lattimore on the field when he was being treated by USC medical staff.

"Even our opponents don't ever trash-talk Marcus Lattimore," Spurrier said. "They have so much respect for him. Usually, when a guy makes a tackle, he'll get in the guy's face. But they don't do that to Marcus. He is so well-respected. I believe he is the most popular Gamecock we've ever had here. Good things are going to happen to him in his life."


* In addition to Lattimore, Spurrier said defensive lineman Byron Jerideau and Brandon Shell suffered sprained ankles in Saturday's win, while quarterback Connor Shaw had "a little bit of a foot sprain." Jadeveon Clowney is still bothered by the same foot pain he has endured for weeks. Because of the injuries, Spurrier said USC is definitely ready for an open date after nine straight games, seven in the SEC.

* Spurrier said that USC will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week before taking the weekend off.

* Spurrier said USC enjoyed "good fortune" in Saturday's win. The Gamecocks forced two turnovers and Tyler Hull came up with his best punt of the year, according to Spurrier, in the final two minutes of the game. Kenny Miles tackled Tennessee's punt returner about 9 yards behind where he caught the ball, so the punt ended up being about a 61-yard play for USC.

* Spurrier said Georgia's victory over Florida on Saturday didn't dramatically improve USC's chances of capturing the SEC East, since Georgia has to lose to Ole Miss or Auburn and Florida must lose to Missouri at home in order to give the Gamecocks a chance.

* Rather than concerning the team with winning the SEC East, Spurrier wants the Gamecocks to focus on beating Arkansas, a team that has won three in a row over the Gamecocks by margins of 17, 21 and 16 points. The Razorbacks fell to 3-5, 2-3 SEC as a result of Saturday's 30-27 last-second loss to Ole Miss. The Rebels kicked a field goal as time expired for the winning points.

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