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August 11, 2010
It's Marcus Lattimore's -- best friend!
"I don't mind it so much," South Carolina freshman Nick Jones said on Tuesday. "I mean, he deserved all that attention."
Yes, but Jones deserves a bit as well.
Like his best pal, roommate and teammate since Pop Warner ball, Jones is a USC freshman trying to make an impact right away. While Lattimore may be more capable of that on sight -- not many five-star Parade All-Americans come to college and ride the bench -- Jones feels he can be right there with him once the games come around.
At 5-foot-8 and equipped with sprinter's speed despite a senior-year knee injury, Jones was as much of a key to Byrnes High School's dynamic offense as Lattimore was. No, he wasn't the first option, but he was often the second and third.
As a player who could shift from scat-back to slot receiver to sideline route, Jones gave defenses about as many headaches as his decorated teammate. The shifty Jones was notorious for running at a linebacker or corner, planting his foot and spinning right out of grasp, as the dazed defender tried to keep the receding jersey in sight.
Once Jones committed to USC, he had to wait a bit but got what he wanted. Lattimore pledged to the Gamecocks as well, giving Jones another four years of playing with his best friend.
Now to equal all of the giddiness that Lattimore's signing brought. Jones figures if USC's fans turned cartwheels over one Byrnes product signing, how will they feel about two?
"They're looking at me in the slot and out wide," Jones said. "I kind of flow between the two. I feel comfortable in both the spots, really. During the scrimmage, I thought we looked great."
Jones caught two passes for 27 yards in Tuesday's scrimmage, specified for most of the younger players. As he saw it, it was his time to prove what he could do.
"I ran some posts, some screen routes," he modestly shrugged. "No, didn't get in the end zone."
The Gamecocks are in need of a slot receiver but they also would like someone on offense who is difficult to dissect on film. If a player switches back and forth and produces in each, a defense may find it difficult to get a handle on him.
Jones could be that guy. It didn't take him long to impress coach Steve Spurrier.
"Everybody is talking about Marcus, you watch that little Nick Jones run routes," Spurrier told GamecockCentral.com. "I told somebody that he reminded me of some of our Florida receivers the way he put his foot in the ground and made cuts and got open. He knows how to get open. Don't be surprised to see him in the top six receivers right now."
While Jones was speaking on Tuesday, his teammates also sang his praise. Akeem Auguste trotted by and quipped, "This the man right here!" as Jones brushed him onward.
The accolades are nice but Jones will have to work to get where he wants to be. Lattimore may be automatically pushed to near the top because of his impressive credentials, and while he certainly deserves that, Jones wants to be there to.
He knows he doesn't bring those kind of statistics, which leaves the practice field as his opportunity. So far, it's been impressive.
"I'm just another piece of the puzzle," he said on National Signing Day. "We've been running the spread offense ever since I've been in middle school. To go down there and do the same thing is really going to be good."
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