It looked worse than it actually turned out to be -- but man, did it look bad.  South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was carted off the field after a gruesome, leg-twisting injury in the second quarter Saturday in their victory against Tennessee, and it wasn't a sight for the squeamish.

Lattimore took a hand-off on the South Carolina 25-yard line and was breaking around the left side when Tennessee's Eric Gordon came in low just as Lattimore was being wrapped up.  Lattimore was flipped over, and his right leg came down at a sickening angle.


While the footage suggests a career-ending injury, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier reported to ESPN earlier today that, in fact, Lattimore had hyperextended his right knee and has seriously damaged several ligaments.  No broken bones and no additional injuries, according to the team's physician -- but Spurrier went so far as to say that doctors believe Lattimore could possibly even come back from the injury.

 Spurrier said the injury was significant, but discounted speculation Lattimore never would play football again. Lattimore has not used a redshirt season so he could take as long as necessary to recover and still return to the Gamecocks for the 2014 season.

"We're optimistic his football days are ahead of him," Spurrier said.


No one, however, is trying to downplay the severity of the injury. The entire field was flooded with players from both teams as Lattimore was carted off the field -- it was one of those hits that everybody felt.  Team officials said the recovery won't be a quick one, but even if he wears red again at South Carolina, one has to think it will shorten a possible NFL career. Lattimore turns 21 on Monday and has done extensive damage to both knees without taken a single huddle in the NFL -- he already sat out half of last season when he tore the ligaments in his other leg against Mississippi State.  At the time, he was one of the leading rushers in the nation with 818 yards in seven games.

Lattimore had gained 597 rushing yards heading into Saturday's game despite rushing for only 13 yards in last Saturday's loss to Florida. Before the injury, Lattimore had rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

--Source:  USA Today

Still, Spurrier told ESPN he'll give his blessing to whatever Lattimore decides to do in the months ahead.  And just as the Gamecocks proved last year that they could continue to win without their popular running back, they held on against Tennessee Saturday 38-35. They'll also be off the field next week, so they've got time to realign their offense before taking on Arkansas Nov. 10.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported Lattimore "resting comfortably" as of Sunday evening and will be evaluated medically throughout the next week.