Saturday Scrimmage Features Youth Movement

The Gamecocks scrimmaged for the first time this fall on Saturday afternoon at Williams Brice Stadium, offering a chance for several of the younger players to fight for playing time, as the starters sat out the day. Read inside for a full report from Saturday's scrimmage.


Thunderstorms delayed the start of the practice session for nearly 30 minutes. When the skies finally cleared, the players practiced for about an hour, going through running and passing drills. An hour-long scrimmage followed, and the results had the Head Ball Coach pleased.

"It was an okay scrimmage," Spurrier said. "The offensive guys did a few good things; the defense did a few good things. Nobody got hurt, which is always most important."

Following most of the scrimmages during his tenure, Spurrier would wonder if the team would ever be ready to play. After this scrimmage, the biggest negative he could find was in the offense's pacing.

"We're a little sluggish," he said. "We don't get up and go fast enough. We don't get out there and get set fast enough."

Spurrier had to be pleased, because the offense produced three touchdowns without a single turnover. Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley took the majority of snaps at quarterback, and freshman Stephen Garcia saw action as well. Each of the three quarterbacks threw a touchdown pass, and Garcia scrambled around, showing the mobility that he brings to the position.

When Garcia entered the scrimmage for the first time, he received a smattering of applause. Garcia looked shaky at times, but also made several strong plays. Garcia was particularly quick to abandon plays and take off on foot, something he knows he should not do.

"I was a little uncomfortable out there today," he said. "I scrambled a couple of times when I wasn't supposed to, but I'm getting there.

Spurrier is not worried that Garcia likes to take off. Learning to hang in the pocket is something all young quarterbacks have to do.

"They'll see some guy flying by them," he said, "and stepping up and throwing with people flying around you is something that you have to learn to do and you have to have courage to do it. That's why we scrimmage, that's why we practice. I think he will learn that."

Spurrier went on to praise his highly touted pupil.

"[He] made some good plays. He threw a beautiful pass there at the end. He threw it on time and the guy was wide open. That's all we ever ask them to do around here; hit the guy that is wide open."

The pass in question went to tight end Jared Cook. Spurrier has been trying to find a weapon at tight end since the day he arrived in Columbia, and on Saturday it looked like he may have finally found something. In addition to the touchdown by Cook, freshman Weslye Saunders played well. The odd man out was Nick Prochak, who turned heads in the spring with his fine play.

"He should have gotten more action," Spurrier said. "The tight ends are part of our offense."


Culliver Still Adjusting To Wide Receiver

The final touchdown of the day was a 42-yard bomb from Beecher to freshman receiver Chris Culliver. Walk-on defensive back Mike Newton stepped in front of the pass and got his hands on the ball, but Culliver knocked it free and grabbed the carom for the score. It was something Gamecock fans saw too frequently last season, but Spurrier was not concerned.

"That was a walk-on defensive back," he said. "Of course, our scholarship guys did the same thing last year."



Chris Culliver, donning the #17 jersey, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage.


For Culliver, the play meant a little more. It marked the culmination of his first action inside Williams Brice Stadium. Culliver broke down the play afterward.

"What I was supposed to do is run a post route," he explained, "but the way the defender was playing, I kept it on a skinny. I saw him coming up for the ball, he cut in front of me, so I tried to get my hand on it the best I could to at least knock the ball down."

Culliver is two things, very fast and very raw. Coaches want badly to get his speed on the field, so getting him accustomed to the intricacies of the receiver position has been a priority in camp. Culliver ticked off a list of the things he is trying to improve on, saying he needs to catch the ball better, play consistently, and most importantly, run better routes.

"[Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr.] has been working with me on that from day one, just to slow down my routes because I run them kind of fast," Culliver said. "I just try to keep my composure, do what the coaches tell me, learn the playbook as best I can, and try to work my way up the depth chart."

On another deep pass, Culliver was overthrown but Spurrier, Jr. yelled at him when he came back to the huddle. Culliver explained that the problem was that he did not run fast enough.

"He told me I should run faster, that I should never be overthrown, as fast as I am."


Notes:

- Defensive end Jordin Lindsey, who was suspended while awaiting word on his eligibility, returned to practice, but did not participate. When Spurrier was asked if Jordin is now academically eligible, Spurrier shrugged and said, "He was out here today. He thinks he's eligible right now."

- The Gamecocks continue to be healthy, with only two players out with injury. Walk-on fullback Jim Hutton has an arm injury, and freshman receiver Joseph Hills has a knee sprain.

Statistics:

Scoring Summary:

Moe Brown 13-yard touchdown pass from Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop kick)

Jared Cook 5-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia (Ryan Succop kick)

Chris Culliver 42-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Beecher (Thomas Hooper kick)

Individual Statistics:

PASSING: Tommy Beecher 11-8-0-100, 1 TD; Chris Smelley 10-6-0-71, 1 TD; Stephen Garcia 8-5-0-50, 1 TD TOTALS: 29-19-0-221, 3 TDs

RUSHING: Bobby Wallace 7-28; Brian Maddox 6-21; Stephen Garcia 3-3; Chris Smelley 1-(-7). TOTALS: 17-45

RECEIVING: Jared Cook 3-35, 1 TD; Weslye Saunders 3-33; Dion Lecorn 2-17; Larry Freeman 2-20; Bobby Wallace 2-15; Chris Culliver 1-42, 1 TD; Jason Barnes 1-15; Moe Brown 1-13, 1 TD; Brian Maddox 1-9; Freddie Brown 1-8; Clark Gaston 1-7; Scott Spurrier 1-7. TOTALS: 19-221, 3 TDs.


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