Practice Report: Newton Works Out On Defense

The Gamecocks practiced again on Wednesday evening, as they continued preparations for Saturday afternoon's nationally televised contest against the Florida Gators. The game will mark Coach Steve Spurrier's return to the stadium that made him famous, but if the Ball Coach is feeling any pressure to win against his former team, he is not showing it.

Spurrier was surprisingly upbeat when he met with the media following Wednesday's practice. The national media has begun to swarm to the Gamecocks in order to hype this weekend's game, and Spurrier loves the back and forth with the media. When asked if there was any pressure to win, Spurrier grinned and said, "No, we all feel good." When asked how specific players were performing in practice, he would grin again and say, "He looks fine." As reporters grew more exasperated, desperate for something to write about, Spurrier finally offered up a nugget. "We may have some secret lineup changes," he said with a wink. "We can't divulge everything."

While Spurrier would not admit it, most people assume those secret lineup changes will involve Syvelle Newton. In fact, Newton backed up those suspicions following Wednesday's workout. "I'm just moving around, here and there, doing a lot of things I've never done," he said. After being prodded, Newton finally acknowledged that the things he has never done include playing defense. Newton admitted that he has gotten a few practice reps at safety this week, but he doesn't seem to like his chances of sticking on defense. "It didn't look too good," he said. "I doubt if I'll do any of that. I'll probably just let the defensive guys handle that." Indeed, Newton was still wearing his garnet practice jersey, identifying him as a member of the offense. When asked what he does expect to do on Saturday, Newton said he would back up Blake Mitchell. "I've just got to stay positive and motivate the guys and be a senior and be a leader that Coach Spurrier expects me to be," he said.

Spurrier has said that he expects Newton and Mitchell to both get snaps at quarterback against the Gators, something that would seem to put the Florida defense at a disadvantage. However, Spurrier is not buying that. "They've got two also," he exclaimed. The Gators duo of Chris Leak and Tim Tebow is very similar to USC's Mitchell and Newton. Like Mitchell, Leak is the more polished passer, but unlikely to make big plays with his legs. Tebow, a true freshman, is a tremendous athlete, much like Newton. Spurrier does not believe that Tebow is just a runner, though. "Tebow is an excellent passer. He hasn't had many opportunities yet, but when he gets his chance, he can throw it too."

Facing off against the team he won a National Championship with has made many people wonder what Spurrier thinks of his new program as his second season in garnet and black winds down. While many expect him to be upset over the lack of immediate ten-win seasons, he sees it differently. "We're not discouraged at all. We're disappointed we've been in position to beat some good teams and haven't done it." Spurrier went on to emphasize that he is building a program, not a one-season wonder. "We're not there as far as how strong of an overall team we're going to have. We're going to have, I really believe, an outstanding recruiting year this year. It's called recruiting to build a football program; almost anywhere you go it's called recruiting. We're in the process of doing that." As for his success or failure, Spurrier no longer cares about what he accomplished at Florida. He cares only about the Gamecocks. "[My success] is going to be measured against what's happened before at South Carolina. That's the exciting part right there."

The Gamecocks will conclude preparations for the Gators with a light workout on Thursday afternoon.

Kickoff for Saturday's contest between South Carolina and Florida is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. (EST), and the game will be nationally televised by CBS.

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