Gamecocks put Vandy loss behind them
"It was sad," Spurrier said of the Vanderbilt game, "but it's history, and I don't need to talk about it. You watched it, you saw what happened. We're going to try to play better. We were okay tonight. We'll get it out of our system."
The first step toward playing better is a good week of practice. There is a concern that players might take a sense of defeat into the final month of the season. Although any shot at the National Championship the Gamecocks had is likely gone, Carolina is still tied for first place in the SEC East. Spurrier wanted the team to compete for the SEC Championship, and they still can.
"We're 6-2," he reminded reporters. "We've got the second-best record in the SEC [behind LSU]. It could be worse. We're just really disappointed in the way we performed. It was sad, but it's history. Hopefully we got it out of our system, but we'll find out."
There will likely be some lineup changes in Knoxville, and the coaches will have nearly the entire roster to choose from. Aside from Jasper Brinkley and Nathan Pepper, everyone practiced on Monday. Linebacker Gerrod Sinclair (knee) and running back Bobby Wallace (shoulder) both returned to practice for the first time in several weeks. Linebacker Dustin Lindsey, who has played only a handful of snaps this season, practiced for the first time since reinjuring his knee against Georgia.
"He could maybe help us out on some special teams," Spurrier said. "He's getting close to healthy."
The only player with any lingering injury issues is safety Stoney Woodson, who injured his hamstring prior to the game against North Carolina and is still working his way into shape. He practiced some on Monday, but was not full speed.
The most glaring problem for the Gamecocks last week was along the offensive line. On his Sunday teleconference, Spurrier noted that the tackles struggled even more than the guards, who have been under fire this season. Spurrier addressed the offensive line woes again after practice, saying tackles Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen are in no danger of losing their jobs.
"I don't know who else we'd put in right now," he explained. "I just didn't want the guards to get all the blame. Everybody's still practicing. We've got a lot of healthy guys [to choose from]."
Kevin Young, who was named a starter prior to the Georgia game but injured his ankle hours later, has yet to see any significant action this year. Spurrier said that will not change unless Young starts to practice better.
"If he plays a little bit better in practice, you could see him [in the game]," he said. "He's not too impressive right now as far as knowing what to do."
Spurrier also declined to identify his quarterback for this weekend, even throwing open the race to include third string quarterback Tommy Beecher.
"All the quarterbacks practiced tonight," said Spurrier. "We'll find one to start somewhere in that group, hopefully by Saturday. [Beecher] got a bunch [of repetitions]. He looks good. We'll let them all three practice this week and go from there."
The only position unlikely to see any change this weekend is the wide receivers, but by default. After Kenny McKinley, there has been little production, especially from the freshmen receivers who were being counted on to step up. Spurrier dismissed any chance of the freshmen contributing this week.
"They're not ready," he said flatly. "If they looked like they're ready to play, we'd play a bunch of them."
Beecher working hard, getting a look in practice
With Spurrier throwing the quarterback job wide open, third-stringer Tommy Beecher was in for a surprise when he got to practice Monday.
"We just came out here, a normal Monday practice, and I got a couple more reps than usual," Beecher said. "He hasn't said anything to me [about playing]."
Beecher said that Spurrier has not said anything to the quarterbacks about who will start, or even play. Each of the quarterbacks got equal repetitions on Monday, which has Beecher excited about getting another chance to play. He had an opportunity against S.C. State, but struggled in his brief action, and was subsequently relegated to third string.
"It was rough the last time I was in there," he laughed. "I put that behind me. I kept my head in the playbook, so I'll be ready to go if my name is called. I've been practicing, just not as many team reps. I've been throwing a lot. I'll just keep practicing hard out here. It's good to be back out here practicing with everybody. I'm excited, if the opportunity presents itself. Nothing is for certain, it all depends on how we practice out here."
Beecher said the team practiced well, showing no signs of a Vanderbilt hangover. He insisted that the Gamecocks had a solid, upbeat practice and were focusing on the future.
"I thought we had a pretty good practice tonight," he said. "There was a little bounce in everybody's step. The coaches are preaching a ‘new season,' so that's what we're going to try to do. [We'll] forget about last week and just keep playing and focus on this week in front of us."
Part of forgetting about last week involves forgetting that the Gamecocks were booed by the home fans. Beecher said he understands why the fans booed, even if it did not make a difference.
"I know what the fans expect here: they are ready for us to play some big time football, and they should be. I think we'll turn it around. They expect us to go out and execute, and our offense hasn't been doing that recently," he said. He laughed when it was suggested the boos might adversely affect the way players played. "It definitely doesn't help us. Hopefully we'll turn those boos into cheers."
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