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July 9, 2010With all of the justified hype surrounding Marcus Lattimore's soon-to-begin career at South Carolina, it would be easy to perhaps forget that Lattimore is only one player. What's more, he is only one running back trying to break into a rotation that already boasts five running backs.
One of which that will be awfully glad to see him, but knows that no matter how good Lattimore is, he will not be the leader -- in the locker room or otherwise -- of the group.
That honor belongs to Brian Maddox.
"Coach (Jay) Graham talked to me about that before the spring started," Maddox said during spring practice. "Going to take on the leadership and have a great senior year."
Maddox is the lone senior of the group, which also features junior Eric Baker, sophomores Jarvis Giles, Bryce Sherman, Kenny Miles and the freshman Lattimore. He was second on the team behind Miles with 307 yards in 2009, scoring six touchdowns on the ground and taking two more passes in for scores.
There will only be so much playing time to go around in the Cock 'N' Fire offense, and with the running talents of quarterback Stephen Garcia, plus Stephon Gilmore always ready to step in at QB if need be, a running back may not be the featured player in many offensive sets.
Doesn't matter. Someone will have to be there around the backs, soothing tempers and smoothing the path so the Gamecocks will have a formidable presence in the backfield, no matter who gets the ball. Maddox can be that guy.
After playing 30 games and still not breaking the combined 500-yard mark for his career, he knows about sacrificing frustration in order to help the team win.
"Always room for continuous improvement for each and every one of us," the loquacious Anderson native said. "Run hard and over defenders, whenever you get the chance, that's the name of the game. And if you don't get many chances, make sure you do it with the ones you have."
The bullish Maddox has learned how a running back has to play at USC, where the offensive line has been a constant question and coach Steve Spurrier's game plan emphasizes the pass. A middling freshman year became solid campaigns in 2008 and 2009, Maddox proving he could knock the first tackler out of the way to find a gap or be a reliable swing-pass option from the backfield.
The shaking, dancing and stutter-stepping has worked and can work in the system, but usually backs have to prove they can get past that first wave in the middle of the field. Maddox, with shoulders that can seemingly support the Statue of Liberty, sees it as his duty to pass that knowledge on to the younger players.
"I really believe in this running scheme we're putting in," Maddox said.
He's familiar with Lattimore's talents, having seen glimpses of the young man as he was coming up through the Duncan youth leagues. Maddox, playing a wonderful career at T.L. Hanna High School, knew of him and knew of the system Lattimore would be used in at Byrnes High.
Lattimore has been on campus throughout the summer, conditioning and learning the playbook. All that's left is for the actual practice, where he can put his knowledge to good use.
And if he has a question, he'll have a veteran to ask. Just like all of the backs.
"He'll fit in good," Maddox said. "He's been running that style of offense up at Byrnes for a while. He's going to be ready. He'll have a lot to learn, though. That's part of our role, to teach him to get ready."
As for Maddox, he's been ready for this season ever since the disastrous PapaJohns.com Bowl concluded. He knows he'll get some playing time, he knows he'll get asked to do a little more since he's been around for so long.
"My goal? Simple," Maddox said, pausing as the questioner waited to write down "1,000 yards" or "SEC title."
"Be a leader in that room."
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