What might have been ...
"He wanted me to come there real bad, but it was just comfort level here," South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore recently said. "I loved it here."
Michael Dyer committed to Auburn in November of his senior season. The following January, Lattimore had narrowed his choices to South Carolina and Auburn. He considered several factors. He wanted to be somewhere where he was comfortable and somewhere where the team ran the ball.
The Gamecocks pulled out every tool at their disposal, contacting Lattimore with messages from coaches and his best friend, Nick Jones, who had already committed to USC. They promised he would run the ball, which he has, and told him he was the key to them beginning to win big.
That sounded nice, but something else was almost as nice. Another friend was at Auburn- Michael Dyer.
Rated as the top two running backs in the country by Rivals.com, Dyer thought it would be great if he and Lattimore could show up at Auburn as a package deal.
It was close. Very close.
"I was really thinking about it," Lattimore said. "I didn't know until that Sunday before signing day. I was thinking about playing with him."
Dyer heard of the story just as everyone else did. Former Auburn great Stephen Davis brought Lattimore a black drawstring bag and Lattimore pulled out an orange Auburn cap. He held it up, about to put it on his head, then pulled a USC cap from under it and snugged that one into place.
The two wouldn't be playing together, but on Saturday, they'll play against each other.
"There was a lot going on," Dyer recently said. "I'm sure everyone had their own opinions on how the situation worked out."
Each knows they made the right choice. Lattimore debuted to the country with a 182-yard performance against Georgia and then 97 more yards against Furman, while Dyer rushed for 95 yards in the Tigers' season-opener and has 212 for the season. Similar in body styles, with each listed at 215 pounds and Lattimore two inches taller at 5-foot-11, the two will meet on Saturday with the same goal -- helping their team get to 4-0.
Only one team will do it, which is why the reunion will be short-lived. For around three hours beginning at 7:45 p.m., the two can't be friends.
"I can't speak about Marcus -- obviously, he's not on my team," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "I just know he was a very good high-school player and he's doing a really nice job at South Carolina right now. Michael is doing a really nice job here. Two good kids and two good players."
Chizik complimented Lattimore, saying he doesn't run the ball like a freshman, while Dyer spoke of the impending matchup. "It's definitely going to escalate a little bit because we know each other," Dyer said. "There's going to be a lot of hype, freshman running backs going against each other, all that good stuff."
Lattimore offered a scouting report to his defense on what it will face. "He's like a bowling ball, really," Lattimore said. "He'll run you over. He's not that big, he's
not that tall, but he's strong, he's very strong. He's fast and he's just got a lot of power."
The two won't get a chance to truly face each other, but will be on each sideline watching and judging what the other is doing. There might be a stray thought of what could have happened had each pledged to Auburn, but each knows they made the right choice.
"It doesn't bother me," Dyer said. "He's just a freshman on the opposite team trying to do the same thing I'm trying to do, win for our team, do what we can. I respect him for that, so I don't have any hard feelings against him."
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