Mitchell Likely To Start Against Georgia

The Gamecocks returned to the "Proving Grounds" on Monday for the first time since defeating Louisiana-Lafayette 28-14 in the season opener. Although Coach Steve Spurrier fell short of naming senior quarterback Blake Mitchell the starter for this weekend's showdown with Georgia, all signs point to Mitchell getting the nod. Read inside for an in depth report on Monday afternoon's practice.


Finally playing a game means that the coaches have game film to critique, instead of just practice footage. The result was an unhappy coaching staff, and an extended Labor Day practice. On Sunday, Steve Spurrier promised there would be some lineup changes, and he reiterated that Monday evening in one of several prolonged critiques of his team.

"We've got several changes we'll announce later in the week so it won't be too embarrassing for some of the guys," he said. "We had a lot of guys out there that didn't play with the effort that's necessary for us to ever be a contender. I guess you could call us pretenders right now, because the way we played the other night was embarrassing at times. Heck, I apologize to our fans again. I've apologized every year I've been here. I might as well apologize again that we can't get our guys to play at a high tempo level. We'll keep trying though. We'll keep coaching as hard as we can. We need to coach better, that's for sure."

Spurrier had another rant about quarterback Chris Smelley. In the first quarter of Saturday's game, Smelley failed to audible when the Ragin' Cajuns showed blitz. He took a hard hit on the play, and barely got the ball away for an incompletion. The hit to Smelley's throwing shoulder kept him out of practice Monday, and has him doubtful to play against Georgia. Spurrier complained about the mistake in his postgame press conference, and was even more pointed in his criticism on Monday.

"When he did not audible against that blitz and got clobbered in the first quarter, he got smacked upside his head, upside his shoulder," Spurrier said. "They put a nice sandwich job on him. I was hoping he would just get hit real hard and not hurt, so he would learn a lesson not to leave that play on when they're blitzing. We thought we'd taught him to check to something, but he just left it on, and it appeared as if he didn't even know they were rushing.

"Luckily the ball went forward," he continued. "If the ball goes backwards, they pick it up and score. That could have been the play that cost us the game. We barely, barely won the game anyway."

Smelley's injury makes it all but certain that senior Blake Mitchell will start at quarterback against Georgia. While Spurrier refused to name a starter, he said that Mitchell took the majority of the first team snaps in practice, and looked "about like he did last week."

"He did most of [practice] today," Spurrier said. "There's a good chance he'll be the starter on Saturday. I haven't decided for sure yet. We'll keep it sort of suspenseful until later in the week."


Davis off to quick start

Junior running back Mike Davis got off to a good start to the 2007 season by rushing for 94 yards on 15 carries. Davis has struggled with slow starts during his first two years at USC, so being just six yards shy of the century mark in week one is an encouraging sign.

During the postgame press conference, Spurrier expressed disappointment that he did not give Davis another carry or two so he could get what would have been his third career 100-yard game. Monday afternoon, Davis said he did not necessarily share the Head Ball Coach's disappointment.

"I just started laughing, that's all I did," Davis said. "After the game is over, that's pretty much all you can do. It's good that he is thinking [about the yards], but it really doesn't matter to me, as long as we get the win and as long as I contribute as much as I can to the team. A 100-yard game is every running back's goal. But if I don't get it, we still got the win."

Davis did not find out until after the game just how close he was to that benchmark. During the game, he was only thinking about the next play, and what he needed to do.

"I can't go out there and count every yard I run," he laughed, "so I just go out there and try to play hard."



Junior tailback Mike Davis started the 2007 season with a strong performance on Saturday night.


Overall, Davis was pleased with the offensive performance, though he knows the coaches will find some problem areas heading into the Georgia game.

"I think we played very well," he said. "We can always work on stuff, but I think we played very well as a team."

With Spurrier declining to name a starting quarterback, Davis was asked if the uncertainty affects the team's preparation. He said that not knowing the quarterback is no problem for the rest of the team, because they know that whoever lines up behind center will be able to produce.

"All three of our quarterbacks are good," Davis said. "Blake has a lot of experience, but all of our quarterbacks are really talented. I've got faith in all my quarterbacks."

Davis also had encouraging words for the offensive line that opened holes for 195 rushing yards. That included right guard Lemuel Jeanpierre, who was forced into the starting lineup Saturday when starter James Thompson was suspended.

"However they block, that's how I'm going to run," Davis explained. "[Jeanpierre] stepped in, and he played a big role in the game. I think he played very well."


Notes:

- Senior offensive lineman James Thompson, the projected starter at right guard who was suspended for the first three games, practiced with the scout team on Monday.

- Jordin Lindsey expects to find out Tuesday if his appeal to the NCAA will be granted.


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