Garnet and Black Game Preview

Even though recent weather has not shown it, spring is upon us, and that can only mean one thing. No, not colorful rabbits or equally colorful men's wear, but spring football. This Saturday, the Gamecocks are planning to put on a show with their third annual Garnet and Black Spring Game.

The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU at 2:00 p.m., marking the second spring in three years that the ESPN cameras have come to Columbia to get a look at Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Being on television gives the program considerable exposure, and Spurrier hopes it will provide a little extra motivation for the players.

"Being on national TV, if I was a freshman, sophomore kid, I'd try to put on a good show," Spurrier says. "There's been a lot of examples of players having a big spring game that became a starter the next year. That was their shot to be seen and be known and develop into a big time player." Spurrier can cite a specific instance of an unheralded player who caught his eye in the spring game and went on to do big things for him. "Shane Matthews, my first year at Florida, he was fifth team going into the spring game, and I think he was 8-11, 3 touchdowns, and about 160 yards. The next year he was SEC Player of the Year."

With senior Blake Mitchell entrenched as the starter, it seems unlikely there will be any Shane Matthews-type players for Spurrier this year. However, redshirt freshman quarterback Chris Smelley will have a chance to make a name for himself as the backup. Because Tommy Beecher is questionable for the spring game with a shoulder injury, Smelley can expected to play the entire game for one team. "Chris Smelley will get a chance to throw about 30-35 balls, and see if he can hit a few," said Spurrier.

Spurrier expects to field two separate teams to compete against each other for the game. He has not announced who will play for each side, but he has revealed how the coaching staff will be split up. "We've got enough players to have two teams and let them go play," he explained. "We may have kickoffs, punts and so forth." Spurrier will have a supervisory role on Saturday, leaving most of the coaching to his assistants. "I'll be in and out. We'll probably let [quarterbacks coach] David Reaves and [wide receivers coach] Steve [Spurrier], Jr. call the plays for the two teams, and divide the focus up a little bit." The defense will not be split up in the same way, and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix will coach both defensive units.

The Garnet and Black Spring Game will be about more than just football, something that has Spurrier excited. Columbia natives and Gamecock alumni Hootie and the Blowfish will perform prior to the game, and again at halftime. "We're really proud of [them]," Spurrier said. The halftime events will also include the spring football team awards and a special presentation involving Under Armour.

"We're looking forward to hopefully having a fine performance," he added. "We want to encourage all our fans who can be here to come. Hopefully the weather will be nice and we can have a big crowd. We've got a lot of charity groups where it's free for the kids in our area." Spurrier said groups including the Boys and Girls Club, and the YMCA have been invited and are expected to attend.

Everyone else will have to buy a ticket, but Spurrier promises the cost will be put to good use. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth when purchased from the in advance. On Saturday, tickets will be $12 for adults and $6 for youth. Carolina students get in free with their student ID. "It's a fundraiser for our academic learning center. We don't have one. Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, they've all got one, and we need one. Hopefully we'll have a good crowd here and have some fun and some of these guys will really play well."

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