Spurrier Discusses Practice, Suspensions

On the first day of fall classes, Gamecock Nation got some bad news regarding the attendance of three football players in summer classes. Because of faulty attendance during the summer, Blake Mitchell, Bobby Wallace, and Chris Hail have been suspended by the Athletic Department for the season opener against La. Lafayette. Steve Spurrier commented on the suspensions following Thursday's practice.

It was originally announced that senior defensive end Jordin Lindsey would also be suspended. However, Lindsey had previously appealed the suspension, and has been reinstated to play in the opener. Lindsey has not yet received word on whether the waiver he filed with the NCAA has been cleared.

In an opening statement following Thursday afternoon's workout, Steve Spurrier explained the situation.

"I was told that we had four players that, for class attendance reasons, had to miss the first game. Since I said that, I got corrected by our head of academic affairs that it is only three: Jordin Lindsey is eligible. If somebody else becomes eligible, I will tell you as soon as I can. From what I understand, Blake is trying to appeal his situation. I was told he was out. If he is out, Chris Smelley will start the game. If Blake is in, Blake will start the game. That's about as simple as I can say it. I'm just down here waiting for them to tell me what's going on, and we'll go from there."

Spurrier said that he was aware of the suspensions for some time, but he was waiting to make the announcement. When the story leaked Wednesday night, he decided it was time to make an official statement.

"I heard something about a month ago that some might have to miss," he said, "and I found out that they are supposed to miss. That's our policy, and we'll adhere to it. I'm 100% behind our class attendance policy. There is no reason in the world why only one or two guys are in trouble. If these guys have to sit out, that's not going to bother me. They didn't go to class the way they should have."

Spurrier was asked if he is frustrated about the suspension, but claimed indifference. He said at the beginning of camp that he is no longer disappointed in Mitchell, because "he's done some disappointing things before."

"That's the way the ball bounces," Spurrier said. "Blake should have gone to class better this summer. If he has to miss one, we'll live with it, but if he is eligible to play, we'll live with that too. I'm flexible either way."

Spurrier did not have much time to actually talk about football, but he did reveal his quarterback rotation for Louisiana Lafayette. If eligible, Mitchell will start, otherwise Smelley will start. Tommy Beecher will also play, and he and Smelley took all the snaps in Thursday's practice.

"We'll play both Tommy and Chris Smelley if Blake is out," Spurrier confirmed. "If Blake is in we might play all three. Right now they are all playing about the same through preseason."

Smelley, Beecher Ready To Play In Mitchell's Place

After the scrimmage Wednesday night, Chris Smelley spoke with a half dozen reporters about trying to win the backup job over Tommy Beecher. On Thursday afternoon, a half dozen reporters asked Beecher about being the backup, while some twenty reporters crowded around Smelley to ask about being named the starter for Louisiana Lafayette, in Blake Mitchell's absence.

Neither Beecher nor Smelley has spoken to Mitchell about the suspension. In fact, they have not even spoken with Spurrier about the lineup change, having found out in the locker room before position meetings that Smelley would be starting.

"We're not sure what's going on right now," Beecher said. "I hope Blake is able to play. It would be great to see him out there. Blake's worked real hard this offseason, and he's ready to play out there. It's disappointing to see it happen like this, but we don't know what's going to happen."

In a bit of foreshadowing, Smelley said after the scrimmage that he was confident he could contribute, if he ever got an opportunity. Thursday he acknowledged that the opportunity has come sooner than he expected.

"If I've got a chance to play, it's a good opportunity to get out there and show everybody what I've got," he said. "I'm just going to wait and see what happens. I'll be ready, and I'm doing what I can to prepare myself for it if I get a chance to start."

Both players said they are not letting themselves get distracted by the uncertainty surrounding Mitchell.

"This team is focused and ready to go," Smelley. "We've got a lot of veteran leaders out here. We'll be ready. I'm just out here working. I'm working 100% every day, just giving it what I've got. It was a same day for me."

"It hasn't really been a big deal so far," said Beecher. "Both of us are confident, if called upon, to go out there and move the team up and down the field."

Spurrier plans to play both quarterbacks, which brings back memories of the time at Florida when he alternated quarterbacks on every play. Beecher joked that he wants Spurrier to employ that tactic again.

"I hope so," he laughed. "That's one of the reasons I came here, because I know he alternated in there."


- Tailback Mike Davis suffered a shoulder bruise during Wednesday night's scrimmage, but the injury is not considered serious, and he is expected to be fine by September 1.

- The prognosis for Jasper Brinkley remains the same. He is expected to return to practice next week.

- Game-planning for the Ragin' Cajuns began today. The scout team wore black jerseys and simulated Louisiana-Lafayette's play.

- After practice, players got slices of watermelon as they left the field. After two hours in the hot sun, the watermelons were a welcome treat, and you probably will not see a happier group of guys after a practice. Unfortunately, no arrangements were made to give treats to the hard-working media.

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