ESPN.com’s Joe Schad reports South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore will announce his intent to enter the 2013 NFL Draft later this week.
Lattimore suffered a devastating knee injury on Oct. 27 against SEC East rival Tennessee. The junior running back had rehabilitated from another knee injury that sidelined him much of the 2011 campaign. Both of Lattimore’s injuries sparked debate about the NFL’s rule regarding early entry.
In his debut season, Lattimore rushed for 17 touchdowns and a hair below 1200 yards en route to winning national Freshman of the Year honors. His size, speed and ability to read defenses were all advanced well beyond his years. He likely would have been a high draft pick in the 2011 draft had rules permitted him to make the leap.
As it stands, Lattimore must battle against difficult odds. Running backs have short shelf lives in the current football environment as it is; a back with two major knee injuries comes with a glaring red flag.
Lattimore is attempting to make a transition similar to former Miami running back and current Denver Bronco Willis McGahee. McGahee suffered a gruesome injury in the 2002 season’s BCS championship game. Still, the Buffalo Bills exhausted a first round pick on the talented back, investing in his long term future.
Willis sat out the season immediately after he was drafted, as Lattimore likely must. He debuted with a pair of 1000-plus-yard seasons, and has been a stalwart at the position for almost a decade.
Adrian Peterson was another collegiate star whose ability transcended his age. While at Oklahoma, Peterson had one of the best freshman seasons in history. There’s no doubt Peterson could have made the transition immediately, but the NFL was left waiting.
Peterson too suffered a collegiate injury, but more comparably to Lattimore, had a devastating knee injury last season. Peterson expedited his rehab, and returned this season to be not only the league’s most productive back, but a legitimate MVP candidate.
Lattimore has a more difficult road ahead of him in that this is his second major knee injury, but the Gamecock has proven his ability to overcome adversity. The franchise willing to take a draft pick on him will get a winning attitude.