Gamecocks continue preparations for Arkansas
"Heath Batchelor worked with the first unit at right guard," said Spurrier. "That's the big news of the day. It appears he's going to start. He's our fourth or fifth starting right guard, so maybe he can hang on to it.
Batchelor got his first significant action of the season in the second half against Tennessee, and played well. While he was in, Seaver Brown played left guard, and Spurrier expects that same group to play against the Razorbacks. However, he added that each player earned his spot due to individual play, not group effort.
"Seaver is still holding on in there," he said. "We don't grade them by units really. [Batchelor] played a little bit better than the other guards have."
Spurrier also announced another roster move, albeit an unfortunate one. Linebacker Dustin Lindsey will have surgery on his knee and miss the remainder of the season. Lindsey injured his knee in the spring, but came back to play briefly against Georgia before re-injuring it. He attempted to return to practice last week, but the decision was made to undergo surgery.
"He is going to need another surgery," Spurrier confirmed. "In that first game when he covered that kickoff he hurt his knee again. They were hoping it wasn't as serious as it was, but he needs another surgery to repair some cartilage in there."
Lindsey is known for being a tough player, something that might have come in handy against the Razorbacks, a team with a reputation for being physical on both sides of the ball. They play a tough man-to-man defense and feature the SEC's top two running backs on offense, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones.
"They are one of the most [physical]," said Spurrier. "They are very aggressive on defense, and on offense they can line up and run on 3rd and 8, it doesn't matter to them. They can run or throw on about any down."
Before he left, Spurrier was asked how quarterback Blake Mitchell has done in practice this week, having regained the starting job.
"He looks about the same," Spurrier smiled. "For three years he's looked about the same."
McKinley believes Gamecock offense is finding its stride
If it is possible for a third year receiver who already ranks in the top ten of many of the Gamecocks' career receiving lists to have a breakout game, Kenny McKinley did just that against Tennessee. McKinley burst out against the Volunteers, tying the school record with 14 catches and hauling in a touchdown during the second half offensive explosion.
"Everybody just came to play," McKinley said of the halftime improvement. "The line blocked, and the quarterback was putting the ball where it needed to be. Hopefully we can keep the offense going like this through the rest of the season so we have a chance to make it to a good bowl and still have a chance to win 9 games."
Although Spurrier said he is never encouraged by a game he loses, McKinley saw things differently. Even though they ultimately came up short, he likened the Tennessee game to the 2006 Arkansas game. In that game, Blake Mitchell came off the bench in the second half to spark a dormant offense. That spark continued on through the final four games of the season, and McKinley sees no reason that will not happen this year.
"It's really encouraging," he said. "In the first half I was like, ‘Man, here we go again.' In the second half we came out and we scored with ease, and I was like, ‘Okay, this is the offense we should be having.' Hopefully from here on out this will be the offense that we will be doing every week. This is about the same time last year Blake came on strong."
McKinley was one of several players to mention that reserve tight end Nick Prochak provided a spark at halftime. Prochak spoke out in the locker room, encouraging the players to keep playing hard. McKinley said that having someone of Prochak's stature, or lack thereof, made him work harder in the second half.
"Prochak had a great speech at halftime to get us pumped up," said McKinley. "I don't know if everybody was listening, but it inspired me. I was like, ‘Man, if Prochak is stepping up and saying this stuff, then we've got to go out and play. We must be pretty bad.' He just got in the middle of the locker room and starting going crazy."
In addition to tying the mark for single-game receptions, McKinley has a good chance to break Sterling Sharpe's record for receptions in a season. In 1986, Sharpe caught 74 passes. With three regular season games left to play, McKinley has 55, already four more than the 51 he caught last year (the 11th highest single season total in USC history). McKinley was not aware of how close he is to notching his name in the record books, and was a little surprised to find out just how close he is to doing so.
"Whenever they throw me the ball I'm trying to catch it," he said. "We're not worried about [the record] now, but maybe later on, and we get closer and closer, it will be a big thing. I always had confidence in myself, and my coaches had confidence in me. If plays are there to be made, I'm trying to make them. My coaches feel like I can make the plays, so with that confidence I know I'm a good number one receiver."
McKinley is certainly a good number one receiver, but his life would be easier if the Gamecocks had a reliable number two receiver to help him out, the way he did last season for Sidney Rice. However, McKinley said that the Gamecocks do have the receiving threats at tight end and in the backfield to keep defenses from focusing solely on him.
"I thought right now we would have a solid number two receiver that would take the pressure off," he said. "We've got good tight ends and good running backs that take the pressure off. In a way, those guys are our solid number two receiver right now. They really take pressure off, and those guys are doing a great job catching the ball."
McKinley finds himself in much the same situation as Rice was in a year ago. Both have their names plastered all over the Carolina record books, and, like Rice last year, McKinley is eligible to declare for the NFL Draft after the season. This week, McKinley said he plans to return for his senior season. Reminded that Rice said throughout the season he would return, but ultimately changed his mind and was picked in the 2nd-round by the Minnesota Vikings, McKinley promised he will not change his mind.
"I'm not that guy," he said. "I had nothing to do with that. I'm not even thinking about going. I'm good in college right now."
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