Not again. (Richard Shiro / AP)

Knees are not supposed the bend the way Marcus Lattimore’s did on Saturday.

South Carolina’s ultra-talented junior running back was on his way to another big game against Tennessee when two Volunteer tacklers hit him from either side in the second quarter. With one tackler draped around Lattimore’s back, Eric Gordon drove his body into Lattimore’s legs. Lattimore’s right knee bent backwards and slammed against the turf. Now, for the third time in as many seasons, Lattimore’s season has come to a premature conclusion.

Lattimore sustained a dislocated right knee and ligament damage as a result of the hyperextension, South Carolina team doctor Jeffery Guy said Sunday in a statement. Miraculously, he suffered no fractures or broken bones, but the injury is season-ending, and South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said the recovery process could require more than one offseason.

“We’re optimistic his football days are ahead of him,” Spurrier said. “He knows what the road ahead is,” said Spurrier. “We’re all hoping and praying he’ll be back.”

Brace yourself for the video below, which is reminiscent of the horrific injury former Miami running back Willis McGahee sustained during the 2002 national title game.

Players from both teams stood surrounded the trainers who worked to immobilize Lattimore’s leg in a show of concern and support for one of the nation’s top rushers.

“I saw the look in his eyes when he was on the ground,” South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders said. “He was really heartbroken about the injury. We were just trying to keep him strong.”

Lattimore, 21, burst onto the national stage with his 1,197-yard, 17-touchdown freshman campaign. But after a strong start to the 2011 season, he tore a ligament in his left knee on Oct. 15 and missed the remainder of the season.

Despite his struggles in South Carolina’s losses at LSU and Florida, Lattimore has 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 143 carries this season.

Lattimore, who is projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick, could use his medical red-shirt to sit out next season and return to the field for the Gamecocks in 2014. He can also look to McGahee for encouragement. McGahee elected to enter the draft after seriously damaging his ACL, MCL and PCL in the national title game and saw his draft stock drop from a likely top-five pick to No. 23 overall, where Buffalo selected him. He missed the entire 2003 season while continuing his recovery but then produced consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to begin his professional career.

The 31-year-old veteran played at least 13 games in each of his eight NFL seasons coming into this year and rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in Denver’s Sunday night win against New Orleans.

Spurrier said he has not discussed Lattimore’s future plans with him yet but will support his running back in any decision he makes.

So will many others.







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