Bruised Hip May Limit Marcus Lattimore; Florida Gators Game Plan Shouldn’t Change

When news broke on Wednesday that South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore had missed practice with a bruised hip, the outlook of Saturday’s game changed. With their offensive star far from 100%, the Gamecocks’ chances against the Florida Gators took a hit. That is, if he is truly limited.

Marcus Lattimore - South Carolina Gamecocks

At this point, we’re hearing that Lattimore “might not start.” That’s very different than “will be out.” If Lattimore doesn’t start, but is available, it means he can play if needed. If South Carolina takes care of business without him, Steve Spurrier and the rest of the Gamecocks’ staff would be comfortable with him watching from the sidelines. That, though, isn’t desired. South Carolina wants Lattimore to play and may even need him to play.

The Gamecocks are much more than Lattimore and what he brings to the team, but there’s no denying his star status and what he brings to their offense. He has three 100-yards games and has scored each time South Carolina has taken the field this season. If you need proof of what he can do, you can simply go to his stat line from the 2010 game against the Gators: 40 carries, 212 yards, three touchdowns. He was a true freshman at the time and the Gamecocks won by 22.

But, as I said, he isn’t the entire team. South Carolina took care of business in 2011 against Florida without him. Sure, it was a very different Gators’ team just one season ago, but a win is a win is a win and the Gamecocks are 6-1 in games he hasn’t appeared in. Think about that for just a moment. They are 20-7 with Lattimore, but their win percentage is actually better without him. Is he an important part of their offense? Definitely. Can they win without him? They sure can.

For now, his status is uncertain. It shouldn’t matter to the Gators though. In the first half of the regular season, Florida has proven to have one of the better defenses in the nation. The Gators are playing fast (which is nothing new), but are also playing a physical style of football that was missing at times the past two seasons. Marcus Lattimore or not, the Gators’ game plan doesn’t change.

If Lattimore can go, they have to contain him. If he can’t, they shift their attention to Kenny Miles and Mike Davis (yes, that Mike Davis). Miles, a senior, has gone over 10 carries 11 times in his career. Six of those times came way back in 2009. Davis, a freshman, has 13 career carries to his credit. He’s averaging 9 yards per carry, but that number is lifted by a 50-yard gain against UAB. There isn’t a lot to the Gamecocks’ run game from the running backs not named Marcus Lattimore, but the Gators should still stick to their plan. And they will.

This game means too much to Florida to deviate from what works and what they hope to do. Injury reports, whether real or not (as some speculate Spurrier is playing mind games with the Gators), don’t matter much. The Gators are preparing for another hard-fought SEC battle. The Gamecocks without Lattimore are still a very good, talented team. They still have playmakers on offense and a frightening defense. And that describes Florida as well. Lattimore or no Lattimore, the Gators can win this game, if they prepare for it and play it their way.

The Gators Need For Running Backs Increases With Mike Davis’s Decommitment

On Sunday, Mike Davis announced he was no longer committed to the Florida Gators. The announcement wasn’t a surprise as rumors had been brewing for weeks regarding Davis’s displeasure with the coaching staff’s pursuit of other running backs. While Davis’s loss specifically may be tough to swallow, the loss of a committed running back makes it impossible to keep down.

The Gators experienced numerous injuries to their running backs over the course of 2011. Add that to the fact the Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey will be gone and you have a heightened need for depth. It now starts with Matt Jones, but must continue with at least one more commitment at the position.

For more on Davis’s decommitment and Florida’s need at the position during the current recruiting cycle, check out my piece on the matter at Alligator Army.

High School Football At It’s Best

I like high school football more than the average Joe. Not really sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that although I played youth ball growing up, I was never big enough, fast enough, strong enough, or good enough to make it at the high school level. Granted I went to high school in South Florida where football is more than a religion so there were a lot of people in the same boat as me. I also tend to focus on high school football more than others because I have been coaching youth football now for the past six years and a lot of the players that I began coaching are now playing on the high school level. So following them and their teams is something I really enjoy doing.
That’s why I get a little bit excited when Rivals releases their preseason RivalsHigh 100, which lists the top 100 high school teams nationally. You think picking a preseason poll in college is hard and a giant waste of time – try picking a high school top 100. No thanks! Luckily, Rivals does it for us and since Rivals has a partnership with Yahoo! Sports, it makes it very easy to get weekly updates throughout the high school football season.
This year I decided to take the preseason RivalsHigh 100 and look more closely at some of the teams on it (both in Florida and nationally) where Florida may have a committed player from or where they may be targeting a kid from. This way if you hear the name Don Bosco Prep, it may mean more to you than just some rich, prep school in New Jersey. Just for fun, I also list the Florida schools that the Gators don’t have a target at, since most of the people who will read this are probably residing in the Sunshine State.
• #2 Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ): DE Darius Hamilton
• #5 Armwood (Seffner, FL): RB Matt Jones (committed)
• #7 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, NV): OL Ronnie Stanley
• #10 St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, FL): No current targets
• #12 William T. Dwyer (West Palm Beach, FL): OL Patrick Miller
• #13 Cocoa (Cocoa, FL): No current targets
• #16 Sandy Creek (Tyrone, GA): DE Quinteze Williams (committed)
• #17 Stephenson (Stone Mountain, GA): RB Mike Davis (committed), DT JaFarr Mann (committed), LB Raphael Kirby (currently committed to Miami), DE Jarontay Jones (currently committed to Virginia Tech)
• #18 Miami Norland (Miami, FL): No current targets
• #27 Buford (Buford, GA): TE Kurt Freitag, OL Vadal Alexander
• #34 Christopher Columbus (Miami, FL): DB Deon Bush
• #36 Manatee (Bradenton, FL): No current targets
• #41 Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, CA): WR Jordan Payton
• #49 Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC): OL D.J. Humphries (committed)
• #54 Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, MD): WR Stefon Diggs
• #56 Lincoln (Tallahassee, FL): No current targets
• #66 Lowndes (Valdosta, GA): LB Josh Harvey-Clemons
• #67 Glades Central (Belle Glade, FL): No current targets
• #68 Aquinas Institute (Rochester, NY): ATH Cyrus Jones
• #82 Lakeland (Lakeland, FL): OL Evan Goodman (currently committed to Arizona State)
• #83 Miramar (Miramar, FL): DB Tracy Howard, WR Malcolm Lewis
• #84 Winter Park (Winter Park, FL): WR D’Vario Montgomery
A little extra tidbit of information: Florida and Texas lead the country with 12 teams each in the initial RivalsHigh 100. California has 10 teams. And just something that I saw that caught my eye: Pennsylvania has three teams in the RivalsHigh 100, two of which are named Central Catholic High School. Way to go La Salle, way to ruin the fun!

Recruit Report: JaFar Mann, DT, Stephenson

It’s that time again: recruit report time. Head over to Alligator Army where I break down video highlights of Stephenson (Stone Mountain, GA) defensive tackle JaFar Mann.
Mann is one of two Stephenson players – Mike Davis is the other – currently committed to Florida. At 6’4″, 275 pounds, he’ll head into his senior year with great size and the ability to add bulk before joining the Gators. Mann is a technique player and uses his knowledge of the game to provide himself an advantage. He’s always aware of the exact location of the ball on the field and makes it his primary goal to down the ball carrier. You’ll notice throughout his highlights that his head is always turned toward the ball. Even when he’s being blocked, Mann is focused on getting to the ball and making the stop. It’s rare to see this sort of awareness at the high school level and it’s an attribute that should help Mann succeed at Florida.
You can find more recruit reports at Alligator Army and additional ones will be added throughout the summer and into football season.

Alligator Army Recruit Report: Mike Davis, RB, Stephenson

Welcome to recruit/scouting report day. First up, running back Mike Davis of Stephenson (Stone Mountain, GA).

Davis is in many ways a stud, but that is exactly what you expect a Florida fan to say about a future member of the Gators football team. I am not going to sit here and tell you Will Muschamp and staff made a mistake with his recruitment even if that did seem to work with a certain player under Urban Meyer.
Davis fits the role of complete back. He has speed to the outside, the agility to make people miss, will lower his shoulder and take a hit, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. That is not to say he does not have some work to do, but Davis can become the total package given time in the right system.
For the full report on Davis, head over to Alligator Army where you can read about Davis and some of the other Florida commits.