Practice Report: Boyd a Game Time Decision

With a shortened week of practice, the Gamecocks worked through a traditional "Thursday" practice on Tuesday afternoon, as they concluded preparations for their nationally televised match up against #2 Auburn on Thursday night. An upbeat Steve Spurrier spoke briefly with the media following Tuesday afternoon's practice.

The two biggest areas of concern for Coach Spurrier are, as always, the quarterback position and the offensive line. Web Brown, who had started at left guard in three of the first four games, sprained his knee against Florida Atlantic and is expected to miss several weeks. Thomas Coleman, who started the first two games of the year at right guard, has been tabbed to take over the starting left guard spot in Brown's absence.

Perhaps more intriguing, though, is the return of James Thompson. Thompson entered the season as a starter, but was suspended prior to the opener against Mississippi State. He returns from the suspension this week, and could provide a much-needed boost to the struggling line. Spurrier said that Thompson would be available in a reserve role. "He's a backup guard. He could [play], we'll wait and see." As for the offensive line as a group, Spurrier said that they are showing modest improvement. His goals for the offensive line are simple: "Just try to play harder. Just try to play meaner and tougher up front. That's all we can ask them to do."

Spurrier is much more confident in his quarterbacks. Once again, Syvelle Newton will start, and Blake Mitchell will rotate in. "Syvelle threw the ball around pretty well, and Blake did too." The wide receivers, as always, feature the inimitable Sidney Rice, who is the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week. Fellow starter Kenny McKinley has also practiced well, but Spurrier is worried about the rest of the receiving corps. "Sidney and Kenny caught the ball well, but the other guys bounced a few off of them. Hopefully one of those young guys will make a play or two some time soon."

Chris Hampton suffered a leg injury against Florida Atlantic and has been questionable for Auburn. He had a slight limp Monday night, but practiced nonetheless. He practiced again Tuesday and looked better, making him a good bet to play on Thursday night.

The news on Cory Boyd is less encouraging. Boyd has promised he will play, even at less than full speed, but Spurrier is less certain. "He's still gimpy," Spurrier said. "He's not 100%. Those ankles take a while. Whether or not he can play, we'll just have to wait and see. I'm sure he'll suit up, but if he's like he was today, I don't see how he can play much." The good news is that the Gamecocks have more depth than they did prior to the FAU game. Bobby Wallace was suspended for the game, leaving only Mike Davis and Taylor Rank, a redshirt freshman who had never carried the ball in a college game before, to shoulder the load. Rank broke out in impressive fashion, rushing for over 100 yards. With Wallace returning and Rank having proven himself, Carolina is much more comfortable with the support for Davis, even without Boyd. Spurrier said Wallace has responded to the suspension. "Bobby Wallace is back off suspension, and he's ready to play a little bit."

Carolina would seem to have enough question marks, even before looking across the field. Auburn is on the short list of national title contenders, and Spurrier knows it. "Auburn is a very good team," he said, "a very good defensive team. I think they've given up 6 (points) a game, or something like that." Still, Spurrier is not conceding the game. "They're good in all areas, and hopefully we'll play our best and give ourselves a chance." Spurrier asked the assembled media what Auburn had been saying about the game, and he was told that Auburn says this year they will open up the offense and throw the ball more. "They did that last year," Spurrier said in disbelief. He then added with a smirk, "They may come out firing. Then again, they may not. They may be jiving us."

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