Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Freshmen friends meet up in Atlanta

Auburn's Michael Dyer and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore hoped to share success in the same backfield. The friends will settle for an SEC title showdown at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

While their roles differ, the freshmen have had big impacts.

Lattimore is second in the SEC in rushing yards per game — behind Auburn quarterback Cam Newton — and has 1,114 overall with a school-record 19 touchdowns as No. 18 South Carolina's featured back. Dyer has fewer yards (886) and touchdowns (five) as he splits carries in a talented backfield for No. 2 Auburn.

"As the season's moved on, I think (Dyer has) really come on in terms of … feeling better and fitting better in the offense," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "You can tell his comfort level has improved drastically."

Both nearly wore the same uniform in college.

Dyer of Little Rock, Ark., and Lattimore of Duncan, S.C., came to know each other as two of the nation's most sought-after high school runners. Dyer pledged early to Auburn and tried hard to convince his pal to do the same.

When announcing his decision, Lattimore showed an Auburn cap to the frantic crowd of hundreds at his church. Moments later, he slipped the South Carolina hat from beneath the other, setting off a frenzied hometown celebration.

"He wanted me to come there real bad," Lattimore says. "But it was just a comfort level here. I loved it here."

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Lattimore is a big reason for his team's breakout season, which has included its first victory over a No. 1 team (Alabama), first win at Florida and first SEC East title. Lattimore has a maturity and steadiness uncommon for 19-year-olds.

"You don't see him in any kind of wild celebrations," Spurrier said. "He scores, throws the ball to the ref, gives a little high-five to his teammates, so forth, and he's ready to keep on playing."

Dyer is part of Auburn's talented four-pack of runners that includes Mario Fanin and Onterio McCalebb. Newton triggers the offense, but Dyer is right behind in a role Chizik envisioned for him.

"My part, so far, has gotten bigger and bigger every week," Dyer said. "I feel like our team's play has gotten better and better. So it's just one of those seasons where it's been good."

Dyer broke the Auburn freshman rushing record of Bo Jackson two games ago. Jackson kissed Dyer's head and raised his arm to the fans on Jordan-Hare Stadium's sidelines.

"He was just saying, 'I'm really proud of you and the team with all you've accomplished,' " Dyer said of his talk with Jackson.

There could be more congratulations ahead.

A second victory over South Carolina — Auburn took a come-from-behind 35-27 win in September — would move it into the national title game.

Dyer had the better of Lattimore in their first matchup, the 20-year-old notching his first 100-yard game. Lattimore was held to 33 by the Tigers, Auburn end Nick Fairley even joking "Who?" when asked this week about the South Carolina back.

Lattimore said he and Dyer have texted each other a few times this week but likely won't talk until Atlanta. Lattimore knows how close he came to playing for Auburn.

"It's crazy. I think about that all the time, how it was down to Auburn and South Carolina," he said. "No doubt in my mind that I'm supposed to be here right now."

.SEC title game

No. 2 Auburn vs. No. 18 South Carolina

4 Saturday, Georgia Dome, Atlanta. TV: Ch. 10 Line: Auburn by 5½

Freshmen friends meet up in Atlanta 12/02/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 2, 2010 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  4. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State


    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.