USC Gears Up For Debut of Full Pads Thursday

On Wednesday night the Gamecocks went through their final practice before breaking out the full pads. Twenty-four hours after complaining about a poor practice and sounding very frustrated, Steve Spurrier was in a much better mood following Wednesday's workout. Read inside for a full report.

In anticipation of the pads, and as a respite from four straight days of hard practicing, Spurrier even gave the players a bit of a break.

"We had a little lighter practice tonight," he said. "We didn't do any hitting whatsoever."

The sound of pads crashing against each other is usually an omen that football is near, and the first time coaches can really get an idea about their team. However, Spurrier downplayed the importance of the event.

"We'll do a little bit more hitting tomorrow night," he explained. "We do our little one on one drills, and have a little ‘rah-rah' and all that stuff."

Spurrier recently complained, jokingly, about players having to go to summer school after practice had begun. Wednesday he backed off, saying maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

"Sometimes you get tired of football if you go two-a-days and meet all day for about four weeks," he explained. "This way we're not tired of football."

The players have their Summer II exams Thursday. After that, Spurrier will have them to himself until fall classes begin August 23.

Also on Wednesday, senior quarterback Blake Mitchell was named to the Manning Award watch list. Thirty-five players were named to the watch list for the award, which honors the top quarterback in the nation. Both Mitchell and Spurrier said his chances of winning would depend on team performance.

"I'll just go out and play and everything else will take care of itself," Mitchell said. "We've got plenty of weapons on offense."

"He's got a chance to have a good, big year, if we can block well, run well, all that stuff," Spurrier said. "Quarterbacks on winning teams get a lot of awards."

Steve Spurrier believes senior quarterback Blake Mitchell is capable of having a very strong season in 2007.

Moe Brown Stepping Into Leadership Role

Sophomore wide receiver Moe Brown had only 9 catches last year, but going into this season he finds himself in the unlikely position of veteran leader on a very young group. He was listed as the starter coming out of spring ball, and knows he is expected to step up and take pressure off Kenny McKinley the way McKinley took pressure off Sidney Rice a year ago.

"Me and Kenny are a lot alike," Brown says. "We've got the same speed and same quickness. I expect to be somewhat similar to him in being the person that Kenny was last year."

Brown feels like he is poised to make an impact this year. The biggest difference, he says, is experience. A year ago, he was often lost on the field, but he devoted his summer to learning the playbook.

"I have really learned to take time learning the concepts on offense," he says. "I really tried to focus on not learning one particular play or particular route, I tried to learn what they are trying to do with the play that is called. Doing that helps me understand the offense. I start to pick it up a little better, and I can pretty much play any [receiving] position now."

Brown has tried to share that understanding of the playbook with the Gamecocks' talented freshman receiving class. Several of the newcomers are going to be counted on to contribute this year, so Brown knew he owed it to the team to help them get prepared to play as soon as possible. He is impressed with the entire group, but one player stands out above the rest.

"Jason Barnes is really good," he says. "You can tell he is really polished, coming from Independence. You really can tell that he's had good coaching. All of them are pretty good, but Jason Barnes stands out the most to me right now."

When asked if he has any goals for himself this season, Brown talks about how the team wants to win the SEC Championship. If Spurrier says that is the goal, then he believes it.

"As you know, Coach Spurrier doesn't say anything unless he feels like he really can do it. If he says we can win an SEC Championship, he is going to instill that [in us] all season, and we believe we can, too."


- Freshman Patrick DiMarco moved from fullback to outside linebacker.

- Running back Bobby Wallace returned to practice Wednesday night. He had been suspended for missing classes.

- Spurrier said he is not worried about exams tomorrow, and that he is only worried about "one or two" players.

- The quarterbacks are now wearing yellow no-contact jerseys, although Spurrier chided your humble reporter for not noticing the jerseys when they debuted Tuesday night and getting the color wrong. "Yes, if you'd been here yesterday," he said. "Those are gold. That's LSU gold. If LSU were here they'd say, ‘That's gold.'"

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