Third in a series . . .
This week, answers come.
Until now, the worth of “elite” prospects was based on high school production and perceived potential. Now we get to see for certain if they have what it takes to become college football’s new stars.
We’ll get our first glimpse Thursday night when South Carolina opens up against Southern Miss. Marcus Lattimore, the No. 1 running back in the country, according to Rivals.com, will suit up for the Gamecocks in the ESPN nationally-televised game. Georgia, which intensely recruited the 6-foot, 210-pound tailback, will get an in-person look at Lattimore next week.
So far Lattimore has done his part. He managed to get through preseason camp without injury and has pushed established players in front of him on the depth chart. He remains behind senior Brian Maddox and sophomore Kenny Miles on the depth chart and head coach Steve Spurrier won’t say how much Lattimore might play. But indications are we’ll see a lot of him before the night is over.
“Marcus Lattimore will be in the game early,” Spurrier said on his radio show Tuesday night. “He’s really played well in the preseason. Some people may say he played well enough to start, and he probably has. Still, Brian Maddox, a senior and excellent leader throughout the summer, will be our starter the first game. Marcus is a very good back but we’re going to let him earn his way as we go through the season.”
Everybody has them, the blue-chip recruits who supposedly are can’t-miss, major-college stars or, at the very least, sure-fire contributors. But the amount of time that works out is roughly about the same as it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, the pressure to live up to their billings can be enormous on these players. Lattimore, who starred Byrnes High in Duncan, S.C., was wooed by literally every major program in the South. But he chose instead to be the in-state kid that would try to change the fortunes of the state school.
So far, Lattimore appears to be handling it well. “First of all, I want to win the game and help the team in any way that I can – scoring, any way I can,” Lattimore told The State.
Meanwhile, the anticipation of running through the smoke into Williams-Brice Stadium with “2001” blaring is understandably hard to contain.
“I’m just excited and ready to experience it,” Lattimore said. “I know it’s going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
Similar memories will be getting made all over this week.
Following are just some of the local football heroes who are expected to see action in their first college games in the coming days: USC WR Markeith Ambles (Henry County), Florida OLB Neiron Ball (Jackson), Georgia Tech ATH B.J. Bostic (Jefferson County), Florida RB Mack Brown (M.L. King), Maryland OL Max Garcia (Norcross), Tennessee OT JaWuan James (North Gwinnett), Georgia Tech S Isaiah Johnson (Sandy Creek), Miami RB Storm Johnson (Loganville), Notre Dame WR Tai-ler Jones (Gainesville), Vanderbilt WR Jonathan Krause (South Gwinnett), Georgia S Alec Ogletree (Newnan), Tennessee WR Da’Rick Rogers (Calhoun), Kentucky RB/KR Raymond Sanders (Stephenson), South Carolina QB Connor Shaw (Flowery Branch), Florida LB Michael Taylor (Westlake) and Auburn DT Jeffrey Whitaker (Warner Robins).
With input from writers and bloggers across the South, here’s the freshmen I expect to have the greatest impact this fall (by all means, feel free to agree or disagree):
ALL-SOUTH FRESHMEN OF IMPACT
Florida — DB Matt Elam
Georgia — S Alec Ogletree
Tennessee — OT JaWuan James
Vanderbilt — WR Jonathan Krause
Kentucky –CB Jerrell Priester
S. Carolina — RB Marcus Lattimore
Alabama — CB Demarcus Milliner
Arkansas — DT Byran Jones
Auburn — WR Trovon Reed
LSU — S Eric Reed
Miss. State — WR Michael Carr
Ole Miss — DE Carlos Thompson
Duke — RB Josh Sneed
Georgia Tech — S Isaiah Johnson
Miami — OT Seantrel Henderson
N. Carolina — OL James Hurst
Virginia — OL Morgan Moses
Va. Tech — DT Derrick Hopkins
Boston College — WR Bobby Swigert
Clemson — WR De’Andre Hopkins
FSU — LB Jeff Luc
Maryland — LB David Mackall
N.C. State — OT Robert Crisp
Wake Forest — QB Tanner Price
Previously . . .