Q: Russ, I'm nervous. Calm my fears about the opener. Are we ready?
Tracy T., Norcross, GA
A: Who knows what is going to happen Thursday night Tracy. I quit trying to predict the way things should go for the Gamecocks a long time ago. However, I will suggest this. South Carolina has better athletes than Central Florida. We have a better coach as well, obviously. And we are playing at home. I am not so much concerned about getting the win as I am doing in convincingly and building some confidence heading into Athens. Remember Darren Hambrick's senior season? We were all the rage in the minds of the southeastern beat writers who picked us to finish ahead of Jim Donnan's Georgia. What happened in the opener of that season against Central Florida was a nail biter of a win, the loss of several key players to injury, including Hambrick, and a subsequent trouncing at the hands of the Bulldogs in Athens the following week. We will beat Central Florida, do not worry about that. The question is, how badly will we beat them?
Q: Russ, will Meredith Mercer be doing her tailgating columns again this year? And will there be more recipes this season?
Joan C., Charleston, SC
A: Yes she will Joan. I've been asked that a lot lately. I will contact her and let her know to include plenty of recipes again this season along with her 'Miss Manners' other stuff.
Q: Rooster, who will start at tailback? Mike Davis or Bobby Wallace?
Terry M., Conway, SC
A: I am getting the feeling that Mike Davis may start against Central Florida. I do not know why. That may be null and void by the time this Rooster Report is published because either could start and do well and we are expecting the starters to be named anyday now. But I think we may see more of Davis against Central Florida and more of Wallace against Georgia for some reason. And like I said, either way, with those two guys, we cannot go wrong.
Q: Russ, are the chats back for sure this week? You said we would do them last week and then you were a no show.
Phil C., Bowie, MY
A: My apologies for last week Phil. There was a weather delay at the scrimmage last week and it forced me to be at the stadium past 10:PM. There was no way to get home in time to do the chat at 9:PM unless I overlooked the scrimmage which I could not do either. I was caught in a Catch 22 and in turn, caught a lot of grief from the members for not making it to the chat based upon the emails I have received this week. The chats will start this Tuesday night about an hour after Sports Talk.
Q: What's he deal with O.J. Murdock lately Rooster?
Jeff K., Spartanburg, SC
A: I asked Coach Spurrier about that Sunday and he said O.J. has a virus or something like that. Anyway, he said he had not been practicing and the way I took it was that O.J. probably would not play in this opener because he had missed a few practices. Now, I know your next question might be about whether this means O.J. will redshirt or not? If we do not see O.J. on the field for the Georgia game then we may very well see Murdock redshirted this season.
Q: Russ, who will return punts and kick offs for us this season?
Steven T., Summerville, SC
A: I have witnessed Syvelle Newton and Carlos Thomas doing most of the return work in practice although Bobby Wallace and O.J. Murdock have been back there a lot as well. Kenny McKinley has fielded a few back there in practice too, but I think it will come down to Syvelle, Carlos and maybe Twinkle Toes Wallace in the opener.
Q: Russ, how do you feel about Blake's chance o making it through the season as the starter?
Jerry P., Rock Hill, SC
A: That's a tough one. Coach Spurrier has been doing everything in his power to build Blake's confidence heading into this opener against Central Florida. Coach has gone out of his way to say a lot of good things about Mitchell. Now the key will be to be there to pat Blake on his back during the course of this game Thursday night when he makes his first big mistake. And how Mitchell reacts to that first big mistake will be a telling factor as far as Blake's season is concerned. The one thing Mitchell has to do is let the mistakes roll off his back. He has to be able to put them behind him and drive on with the mission. If he can do that then he has a chance to have a productive season. If Mitchell cannot, if he does not forget about his mistakes in a hurry, then he will not last long as the starter.
Q: Rooster, I have been hearing some things about Stanley Doughty that worries me. Is he doing alright?
Pat P., Atlanta, GA
A: I've heard some of the rumors too. Things like, "He talks too much," and "He has a bad attitude." Here is the deal with Stanley and nothing has changed with him in this regard since day one.
Stanley Doughty is a very confident kid. He is also a hard worker and an admitted trash talker on the field. Sometimes he runs his mouth instead of hushing and listening. That's the problem. It's not that he has a bad attitude at all. It's that he talks too much sometimes. But the coaches are getting that under control. The other knock on Stanley right now is that he is overweight according to the powers-that-be. Remember, when Stanley arrived he was over 350 pounds. He has lost a lot of that and I believe he may be the strongest person on the team at the moment, but he still needs to lose another twenty pounds or so. No matter, you will see a lot of Stanley "Ducky" Doughty on the field Thursday night and all season long. He is a really good kid. He is not a attitude problem at all.
Q: What's the latest on Tommy Beecher?
Tony L., Charlotte, NC
A: Who knows. One thing for sure is that he is redshirting this year. Another is that there are still a couple of little nagging injuries that seem to be affecting his progress. Another is that the coaches are completely reworking his mechanics, when they have the time. Beecher looked like the man to beat during summer voluntary drills, but that has certainly changed since summer practices began. Right now I would have to say that Beecher is so far behind the others that he is going to have a tough time catching up in the future. Then again, perhaps this is all in Spurrier's master plan. Perhaps he is keeping Beecher out of the spotlight and grooming him for big things next year like he likes to do with some of his young quarterbacks. Whatever the case may be, Tommy Beecher is a non-issue at practices. It's almost like he is not even there these days.
Q: Russ, what is your latest take on the offensive line?
Charlie O., Louisville, KY
A: Charlie, nothing much has changed in that regard. We are still weak up the middle and unsure of ourselves as well. You could not ask for two finer tackles than Goddard and Levey but between them there are a lot of questions. I worry about them allowing too much pressure on our quarterbacks up the middle. That can be a coup de grâce to a young, nervous quarterback and to this offense as a whole. I imagine that I, like everyone else, will be closely studying how the middle of that Carolina offensive line performs against a very average Central Florida defensive line this Thursday night. And fans need to pray for no injuries because depth on the offensive line is a real issue this season. Lack of depth is a biggie for the Gamecocks on their 2005 offensive line.
Q: Rooster, who will be the surprise newcomer this season?
Trey K., West Islep, NY
A: Given that everyone heard so much about O.J. Murdock and Carlos Thomas and some of those guys over the summer ... I would have to say Kenny McKinley is probably going to be the big surprise to most. We all thought Bobby Wallace might surprise us, so he wasn't so much of a surprise. But few thought McKinley would do as much as he has done so far.