Gamecocks Gear Up For First Scrimmage

The Gamecocks hit the practice field Friday night in preparation for the first intra-squad scrimmage of the fall. Coach Spurrier noted that, with a week behind them, the grind of practice is beginning to wear on some players. Saturday's scrimmage should provide a welcome change of pace for the players.

"Their minds were wandering after a week," Spurrier said of his players. "They had a homesick look in their eyes yesterday. I asked them, ‘You're thinking about your girlfriend, aren't you?'"

The big news of the night was the return of running back Mike Davis. Davis wore a yellow jersey and only practiced lightly, but he was a welcome sight. Coach Spurrier started his post practice interview by happily repeating, "Mike's back! Mike's back!" Davis still has some work to do before he is ready, and Spurrier said he would be held out of the scrimmage. "He's easing back into it. He needs to work his way back into shape a little bit. I asked him when the last time he ran was, and he said about two weeks ago." Tommy Beecher will join Davis on the sidelines during the scrimmage. He has a sprained thumb on his left, non-throwing, hand that is preventing him from practicing.

Cory Boyd and Clark Gaston have missed practice time with injuries, but both will participate in the scrimmage. Boyd's hand is fully healed, but he will likely see limited playing time in the scrimmage, while younger players are worked in. Spurrier said that Gaston "got dinged a little bit," and is suffering from headaches. However, Gaston is expected to be fine for the scrimmage.

Spurrier spoke briefly about his expectations for the scrimmage. "We'll let all the guys play a little bit. We'll see how they play, and start grading individuals." Spurrier explained what the coaches will be looking for when they watch the scrimmage, saying, "We're not keeping score, just judging each individual on how he plays his assignment, plays with effort, and so forth." The Head Ball Coach was adamant that the scrimmage will not be about competition, but about each player playing his best and making smart decisions. "We're not going to get all competitive, offense versus defense. We don't do that in preseason, that's spring practice stuff. We'll try to protect each other, and just play some ball." As an aside, Spurrier cautioned fans not to get too worked up about how the team performs in the scrimmage, saying, "We certainly looked bad a few times last year in the scrimmages. If we do badly, nobody cares right now. We're just practicing."

With Beecher out because of the thumb injury, Chris Smelley has being seeing increased opportunities in practice. Spurrier praised Smelley, saying, "He's a natural passer, he throws a pretty ball, very catchable ball." However, Smelley still has aspects of his game that need work. Following practice Friday night, Spurrier spent several minutes working on how Smelley drops back. "We're trying to get some rhythm," Spurrier explained. "He's always used to sort of holding it real still, setting, and then slinging, so we're trying to make a passer out of him instead of a slinger." Spurrier added, "If he uses his legs and feet a little bit better he'll be more accurate."

Spurrier also had praise for Eric Norwood. As Norwood jogged off the field, Spurrier called after him, "Alright Eric! Good work, my man." Turning toward the assembled, media, Spurrier bragged, "That's one of our freshmen. He's doing well, too." Spurrier praised Norwood for his outstanding work in summer school and on the football field. "He's first or second team defensive end right now, [but was] playing high school ball this time last year. I'm proud of him"

Note: Saturday's scrimmage is open to the public, and it is scheduled for 4:15 PM at Williams Brice Stadium.

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