COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore was taken off the field on a cart after taking a hit around the knee against Tennessee on Saturday.
Lattimore was running through the left side when he was struck around the knees by Volunteers defensive back Eric Gordon, Lattimore's right leg whipping around and slamming against the turf. South Carolina trainers immediately rushed to his side, keeping Lattimore flat on his back as the junior attempted to sit up and see the injury.
Lattimore missed the final six games of last season after tearing ligaments in his right knee against Mississippi State. He needed surgery and about six months of rehab before he was cleared to return to practice.
Despite the injury, Lattimore was considered one of the Southeastern Conference's best running backs and a likely NFL first-round pick if he opted to leave school early.
This injury looked as devastating as in 2011 and could keep Lattimore off the field the rest of this year, too.
After several minutes lying on the field, Tennessee's players came out to wish Lattimore well. South Carolina's entire team followed as the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium chanted Lattimore's name.
Lattimore's mother, Yolanda Smith, joined her son in the locker room.
"It looked severe on the field," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said as he left the field at halftime. "But we'll have to wait and see."
Former South Carolina defensive lineman Melvin Ingram, a first-round pick of the San Diego Chargers last April, posted on Twitter, "Your in my prayers bro."
Lattimore started the season out strongly, but he and the Gamecocks ran into problems the past two weeks at LSU and Florida. Lattimore rushed for 48 yards combined in those games because of a hip bruise.
Coming into this game, Spurrier had said Lattimore was 100 percent and would carry the load for the Gamecocks. Lattimore rushed for 65 yards, including a breakaway 28-yard TD run, in the first half against Tennessee after coming in with 597 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns this season.
He became an instant star as a freshman, rushing for 1,149 yards and 17 touchdowns. Lattimore was on his way to eclipsing those numbers as a sophomore until the injury at Mississippi State. He holds South Carolina records with 41 overall touchdowns and 38 on the ground.