Gamecocks Scrimmage For Third Time This Fall

A crowd of nearly 5,200 came out to Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon to watch the Gamecocks scrimmage for the third time this fall. The scrimmage, which featured mostly reserve players, was not always pretty, but coaches Steve Spurrier and Tyrone Nix came away with a better idea of what many of USC's younger players can do in game like situations. Read inside for more.

The first possession of the scrimmage featured most of the first team offense going against most of the second string defense. The offensive line was able to give quarterback Blake Mitchell enough time to pass for 55 yards on the drive, but the opening series ultimately ended with a missed 28-yard field goal by Spencer Lanning. Lanning later made up for the miss with a Succop-esque 53-yard field goal. After the first drive, the scrimmage featured mostly second and third string players, who were trying to position themselves on the depth chart for the upcoming season.

The offense struggled until late in the scrimmage, when quarterbacks Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher both led impressive scoring drives. Smelley led a 7 play, 70 yard drive that ended with a perfectly placed 17 yard touchdown toss to Freddie Brown in the corner of the end zone. On the final series of the day, Beecher hooked up with Mark Barnes for a 36 yard scoring strike, which capped off a 6 play, 70 yard drive.

After the scrimmage, Steve Spurrier immediately began talking about the offensive line.

"Obviously," he began, "most of our offensive linemen, sort of got overwhelmed, but that's sometimes the way it is right now. Finally the offense had a couple of drives there at the end. We're letting the young guys play just to see what happens. A lot of players did a lot of good things, so I think it was beneficial for us. We had some positives today."

"It was encouraging to hit a few balls down field," Spurrier went on to say. "We just can't quite hit them right now. The balls are a little behind, or they go off hands, we're just not real sharp yet. We have the players here that can be, so hopefully, if we can coach worth a dang, and get some time to throw, we can get some guys open. These redshirt freshmen offensive linemen need to compete harder. They just sort of stand around and let guys run by them. They're sort of typical big old offensive linemen now. They need to get a little meaner, tougher, competitive, and all that stuff. They've got to play; we don't have anybody else. Hopefully we can get them playing at a level good enough."

If the offensive line struggled, it would seem the defensive line must have played well, but defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix was not ready to celebrate.

"We think our defensive front is a talented group," he said. "We just have to get them to play on a consistent basis. We haven't played anybody yet. We're just practicing right now. In the past we might have looked like this, but it doesn't count until you start playing ball games. We play Lafayette, then we play Georgia, and so on. Our biggest job is just to come out here and get better."

There was one gaffe by the offensive line that Nix could not hope to get any credit for. On a 3rd and 1, the entire offense, except center Web Brown took off, leaving the football resting lightly on the ground.

"If we can get Web to snap the ball on ‘Hut, hut,'" Spurrier joked later. "He likes to make a lot of calls in there. If they jump around he is making all of his calls [he forgets the snap]. I'm glad things like that happen. When it's third and one next time, maybe he'll snap the ball instead of worrying about where the defensive line is."

Defensive pressure was a big factor in the scrimmage. Not only did it cause that false start, but also there were about seven sacks called. It may be cause for the defensive linemen to celebrate tonight, but Nix will not be among them. When he was told about the sack total, Nix looked puzzled for a moment, and then said, "I don't keep up with that part of the game."

"Our deal is just trying to get them to go play hard and become a tougher defense," he explained. "I think we gave up some third downs, and I know we gave up some touchdowns. Until we learn how to play 100% every snap and play mistake free football, we still have a long way to go."

Nix said that freshman Cliff Matthews caught his eye, but that he would not be sure who played well until he reviewed film.

"Some of them flew around," he said. "Cliff Matthews looked like he showed up a time or two, making plays. It's hard to single out a lot of guys until you watch the film. Some of them understand how to play. We've got to get all of them thinking that way."

On offense, Spurrier did not have to wait for the film to know who impressed him. He pointed immediately to receivers Freddie Brown and Mark Barnes. Barnes played well in just his second day at wide receiver since being moved there from safety.

"It was good to see Mark Barnes come in there and catch everything he touched," Spurrier said. "We're going to coach him. He's only been there a day or two. We put him over there and let him play. Coach Steve [Spurrier, Jr.] has to stand behind all these freshmen receivers [and tell them where to go]. It's hard to learn it all right now. Most of the guys have an idea what to do. Tommy threw a nice one here to Mark Barnes."

Brown is a redshirt sophomore who played well in spurts last season. This year he is one of several receivers being counted on to fill the void left by Sidney Rice. Spurrier thinks Brown just needs playing time to make a name for himself.

"We finally got him out on the field. Freddie can catch. He can catch and Chris [Smelley] dropped that one [touchdown in the corner of the end zone] in there nicely."

With Spurrier finding some depth on offense, Nix was trying to do the same on defense.

"That's what we were doing today," he explained, "trying to find out how many of the second and third unit can cut it loose and play the proper technique and proper alignment. We tried to play a lot that haven't had a whole lot of game experience. We had a guy like Carlos Thomas, who played, that we are trying to get to become a more consistent football player."


- Casper Brinkley did not play in the scrimmage, but Nix said he continues to plan to use Casper as a situational defensive end, in addition to being the starting outside linebacker.

- Jordin Lindsey participated in the scrimmage, although he has still not been officially cleared academically.



Spencer Lanning 53-yard field goal

Freddie Brown 18-yard pass from Chris Smelley (Thomas Hooper kick)

Mark Barnes 36-yard pass from Tommy Beecher (Hooper kick)

PASSING: Chris Smelley 20-13-0-124; Tommy Beecher 8-5-0-79; Blake Mitchell 9-5-0-55; Stephen Garcia 6-4-1-55. TOTALS: 43-27-1-309.

RUSHING: Brian Maddox 4-21; Clark Gaston 2-6; Patrick DiMarco 2-3; Blake Mitchell 1-2; Jim Hutton 1-2; Stephen Garcia 5-(-9); Tommy Beecher 2-(-10); Chris Smelley 3-(-11). TOTALS: 20-4.

RECEIVING: Mark Barnes 4-80; Freddie Brown 4-52; Brian Maddox 4-25; Weslye Saunders 3-49; Patrick DiMarco 3-25; Larry Freeman 2-31; Dion Lecorn 2-11; Moe Brown 1-13; Jared Cook 1-8; Jim Hutton 1-7; Scott Spurrier 1-7; Clark Gaston 1-1. TOTALS: 27-309.

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