Culliver, Saunders Highlight Wed. Scrimmage

The Gamecocks scrimmaged for the final time on Wednesday night before officially kicking off the season next Saturday. After blasting the play of the offense earlier in the week, Coach Steve Spurrier felt that his unit showed some improvement in the scrimmage, scoring five touchdowns. Read inside for a full report from Wednesday night's scrimmage.


"It was a typical scrimmage for us," said Spurrier following the sixty-one play scrimmage. "Nothing too big happened either way. The defense did a lot of good things most of the night."

The highlights of the scrimmage came in the passing game, as true freshmen Weslye Saunders and Chris Culliver both had long touchdown catches. Saunders hauled in a 46-yard touchdown reception, while Culliver had an electrifying 35-yard dash to the end zone. Spurrier was particularly excited to see Culliver finally make some plays from his receiver position.

"Chris Culliver made a few catches, and ran with it after he caught it," Spurrier said, "so that was encouraging there. Watching Chris Culliver make some catches was encouraging because when he gets it in his hands he can go the distance. He reminds me of Syvelle Newton: when he's got the ball in his hands he's real fast. When we can get him running routes and pretending he's got the ball in his hands, he's going to be something. It's all new for him, and he made some progress tonight."

Spurrier was already in midseason form when it came to revealing details of the scrimmage. He declined to offer many specifics when asked how he would utilize Culliver or how the quarterbacks played.

"The quarterbacks played decent," was all he offered. "Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher did some good things. Blake [Mitchell] did a few good things here and there. We had a few errant passes but not too many tonight."

It would not be an official practice if Spurrier did not have to address the offensive line. For the second night in a row, he had positive things to say.

"The offensive line did some good things here and there," he said. "They struggled a lot at other times, but maybe it's because we've got a pretty good d-line. We've got to go play the opponents, and then we'll find out just exactly where we are. We won't do too much hitting until the game a week from Saturday."


Smelley Pleased With Offense's Progress

Redshirt freshman Chris Smelley has been in a tight race with Tommy Beecher for the backup quarterback job. Smelley, who went 12-16 for 169 yards and 3 touchdowns in the scrimmage, met with the media Wednesday night and discussed his situation. Smelley felt like he played well, and thought the offense as a whole showed some promise.

"The scrimmage went pretty well tonight," he said. "The offense was making some plays, and the defense had some plays out there as well. I think it was a good tune-up for our last scrimmage out here, and we'll be ready to go. The receivers were getting open and making some plays, and the line was giving the quarterbacks time to throw."

The last comment may have been the most important. Several times during camp, Spurrier has complained that receivers aren't getting open, but the quarterbacks are not getting the time to throw the ball. Even though Spurrier has his doubts in the line, Smelley is confident the unit will step up.

"The offensive line is looking good," he said. "The first string line is really coming together. I think they will be fine come game time."

Smelley refused to handicap the race for the backup spot, saying only, "We both played pretty well. We both bring a lot to the table, and I think we are both confident we could go out there and help the team."

Smelley did say that he feels much more comfortable this year, and that he is able to make plays for the offense.

"I'm a totally different quarterback this year, as far as knowledge and understanding what I need to do," he said. "It's a completely different game for me this year, so I feel good. I feel like I'm ready to play right now, if I just get in there and get a chance to show myself and prove myself on the field. I've got enough confidence to go out there and help the team win."


Notes:

- Running back Mike Davis injured his shoulder during the scrimmage. There was no word on the severity of the injury, but Davis did not appear to be in pain, so it is not believed to be serious.

- With classes beginning Thursday, the Gamecocks will change their practice schedule. They will practice Thursday and Friday afternoon, and then Saturday morning, before getting Sunday off.

- Spurrier said he hopes there will be no academic problems this semester. "We say go to class and be on time."

- Jasper Brinkley, who injured his ankle last Wednesday, but later returned to practice, is once again on the sidelines. "His ankle is bothering him a bit," Spurrier said, "so we're going to try to see if he can rest it and get well by Monday." Brinkley is now wearing a protective boot.

Statistics:

SCORING PLAYS:

Weslye Saunders 46-yard pass from Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop kick)

Chris Culliver 35-yard pass from Smelley (Succop kick)

Lanard Stafford 3-yard pass from Tommy Beecher (Succop kick)

Mark Barnes 19-yard pass from Smelley (Hooper kick)

Larry Freeman 5-yard pass from Blake Mitchell (Lanning kick)

PASSING:

Chris Smelley 16-12-1-169; Blake Mitchell 12-8-0-78; Tommy Beecher 6-4-0-20; Kenny McKinley 1-0-0-0. TOTALS: 35-24-1-267.

RUSHING:

Brian Maddox 5-40; Mike Davis 6-23; Patrick DiMarco 5-12; Bryan Kingrey 2-12; Tommy Beecher 3-(-4); Chris Smelley 1-(-6); Blake Mitchell 4-(-7). TOTALS: 26-70.

RECEIVING:

Chris Culliver 4-68; Weslye Saunders 2-56; Taylor Rank 2-23; Larry Freeman 2-13; Clark Gaston 2-7; Matt Clements 2-6; Mark Barnes 1-19; Nick Prochak 1-18; Moe Brown 1-11; Kenny McKinley 1-9; Robert Pavlovic 1-9; Mike Davis 1-8; Paul Haile 1-7; Patrick DiMarco 1-6; Dion Lecorn 1-4; Lanard Stafford 1-3. TOTALS: 24-267.


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