USC To Debut Under Armour Uniforms Saturday

The Gamecocks worked through their thirteenth practice of the spring Thursday afternoon, in continuing preparation for Saturday's annual Garnet and Black Game. Bad weather forced the postponement of the scheduled Wednesday session, but Mother Nature could not have ordered up a better day for practice.

The players practiced in full pads, and finished off the day with a brief scrimmage for the reserves. After frequently looking lost during practices this spring, quarterback Chris Smelley drew kudos for his strong performance on Thursday. "Chris Smelley threw a lot of good balls, and threw a couple touchdowns," said coach Steve Spurrier. "He showed remarkable improvement from the other day. Hopefully he'll have a good game Saturday."

Spurrier announced earlier in the week that Smelley would take all the snaps for one team during the Garnet and Black Spring Game. Thursday he added that Blake Mitchell would see most of the work for the other side. Tommy Beecher, the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, is out with a sprained shoulder, forcing Mitchell into action. "It's going to be Chris Smelley versus Blake Mitchell. It will be interesting to see what happens." Spurrier emphasized that the goal for Smelley during the spring game is to get better, not to try to win the backup job. "We don't worry about [backup] right now. We'll worry about that if Blake gets hurt."

While the spring game will not set the depth chart, Spurrier still places a premium on seeing how players perform in a game-type situation. "Usually out of the spring game you find a player who demonstrates that he can play in the stadium on television in front of a lot of fans." Toward that end, the Gamecocks will treat the spring game as a real game. That includes debuting next season's new uniforms. "We're going to put on our Under Armour game uniforms, and hopefully the fans will really like our uniforms."

Spurrier was not the only coach with a National Championship to his credit prowling the sidelines on Thursday. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, a former defensive coordinator for Spurrier during his Florida days, stopped by to watch the Gamecocks practice. Spurrier asked Stoops to address the team, and the Sooner coach obliged. "I'll always ask a coach that I admire and respect to say a few words to our team," Spurrier explained. "He basically just tells them how important [hard work] is to win a championship. If we're ever going to win one here, we've got to earn it, and pay the price. We've got to have 100% participation in our summer program. We've never had that since I've been here. Teams that want to win, you don't have to make guys work out. Hopefully someday we'll get to that point."

Offensively, the biggest story of the spring has been redshirt freshman tight end Nick Prochak. Spurrier has praised Prochak after almost every practice. Prochak played quarterback in high school, and was recruited as an athlete. He spent last year practicing at safety, but a shoulder injury paved the way for him to move to offense. Injuries to the other tight ends meant that Prochak has been playing with the first team. "It's the first time he's ever played tight end," said Spurrier, "but he can catch, run routes, and all that kind of stuff. He's made a remarkable improvement." Prochak is not necessarily buying into all the excitement. "I've still got a lot to learn," he says. "Of course, I've had a lot of good coaching, and a lot of upperclassmen helping me out. I'm just trying to go out there and get better."


- After working at defensive end on Monday, Casper Brinkley was back practicing with the linebackers on Thursday afternoon.

- Dakota Walker, Chris Hail, and Freddie Brown were suspended from Thursday's practice for missing too many classes.

- Though he will miss the spring game, Beecher's shoulder injury is not serious. He is expected to recover fully with two or three weeks of rest.

- The Gamecocks next practice will take place Friday at 4:15. p.m.

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