Practice Report: Which Newcomers Will Play?

With four practices in the books, many of the newcomers are beginning to bring some order to the depth chart. Captain Munnerlyn, Casper and Jasper Brinkley, and Chris Smelley all drew praise from the Head Ball Coach, while Darian Stewart continued to see snaps with the first team defense.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kenrick Ellis appears headed for a redshirt year. Redshirt freshmen Jared Cook and OJ Murdock are also settling into a slot on the depth chart.

"One guy that nobody seems to be able to beat is Captain Munnerlyn," Coach Steve Spurrier observed. "He could be a starter. He's not real tall, but he's a strong defensive back [and] tough to beat in man-to-man coverage. We're not afraid to play true freshmen as starters, so he'll have a chance." Spurrier added that Munnerlyn would be in the mix to return kickoffs.

Staying on the defensive side of the ball, the Brinkley twins appear well on their way to replacing the Lindsey twins as the players Most Likely to Confuse Fans. Spurrier loves the energy Casper, a defensive end, and Jasper, a linebacker, bring to the field. "They're flying around, and they're making things happen. Jasper and Casper they both have good motors." He expects them to play a big part in an improved defense. "At times last year guys didn't play real fast, and both these young men seem to really enjoy playing the game at a fast pace."

Smelley, a freshman quarterback, saw the most reps of his young career. He continued to demonstrate a strong arm, but it was his feet that drew Spurrier's attention. "He's starting to use his legs a lot more in his throwing motion, and the ball's coming out beautifully. He threw it a lot better tonight [and] did some good things out there."

Big things are expected out of Murdock, a wide receiver from Tampa, but he is still learning. Spurrier was noncommittal on what he expects from Murdock this season. "He does a little bit here and there," Spurrier observed. However, he had more glowing words for Cook, who is making the transition from wide receiver to tight end. Cook made several nice catches on a variety of routes. "He's got a lot to learn, but he's doing fine," said Spurrier. " He's making some errors in his assignments, which is to be expected. He really has never played tight end until this spring."

Ellis, a freshman defensive tackle, missed another practice as he tries to get down to his weight target. After practice, Spurrier confirmed what many were beginning to suspect: Ellis will likely redshirt this season. Spurrier said simply, "We'll redshirt all those that aren't scheduled to play much, and right now he's not scheduled to play a lot." When asked what his goal was for Ellis, Spurrier joked, "We're trying to get him to where he's under about 330, so he won't hurt anybody if he falls on them."

Spurrier also offered updates on the status of Mike Davis, Noah Whiteside, and Brandon Isaac. Unfortunately, the update for each player was "more of the same." Davis continues to sit out with a foot infection, and the prognosis has not changed. "A couple of days and they'll try to get that thing to where he can come out. It's just important to keep it dry and let it heal," said Spurrier. He also confirmed that Isaac has "an academic issue" that they are monitoring, in addition to a sore hamstring. Whiteside is still waiting on his grades, and until then, he is allowed to practice. Spurrier seemed weary of answering questions about Whiteside, saying, "He keeps showing up every day, so I guess he's ok, unless we hear differently."

Coach Spurrier also weighed in with his thoughts on Sports Illustrated naming Carolina as one of sixteen contenders for the national championship. When asked how he felt about being a contender, he asked, "Contender for what?" After learning Carolina was a contender for the national title, a bemused Spurrier paused, then speculated on the season. "Everybody's a contender, so we're one. Who knows? If we get lucky like we did last year, and the ball bounces our way a few times anything can happen. I think we'll be a better team than last year. I said that the other day and I really mean it. Does that mean we'll win more? I don't know. If you get a bunch of bad breaks and lose a bunch of close ones, you don't win a lot. If we can win our close ones and play with effort I think we'll be a little bit better than last year's bunch."

Spurrier also pointed out to reporters, "Four writers voted us to win the SEC." Then, perhaps in an effort to get certain members of the media to betray themselves, he asked, "You guys aren't a bunch of idiots are you?" While readers debate the answer to that question, Spurrier offered one tidbit that is sure to get the blood pumping in every Gamecock's heart: "Tomorrow night we can wear full pads."

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