Tommy Beecher is the New Sheriff in Town

Friday night kicked off the 2008 football season for USC, as the Gamecocks hit the practice field in front of close to 1000 fans. It was Tommy Beecher's first practice as the starting quarterback for Carolina. Steve Spurrier is pleased with his new starting QB, and Beecher made it clear he has every intention of maintaining his new role. Read inside for the full story.

Moments after practice ended, Coach Spurrier met with the media and had high praise for Tommy Beecher. "He's about as knowledgeable as any quarterback I've ever had."

Spurrier seldom speaks jargon, and if he says something, he means it. Gamecock fans can feel excited about the prospect of Beecher becoming a Spurrier-esque QB this season. It is something that fans have been waiting for since the Head Ball Coach stepped on campus back in December 2004.

The 6-2, 220 pound QB out of Concord, NC, was the first at his position to commit to Spurrier at Carolina. After arriving on campus in 2005, Beecher was buried on the depth chart behind Blake Mitchell, Syvelle Newton, and fellow 2005 commit, Cade Thompson. After his first season, he even considered transferring to another school. "It was tough for me coming up here, redshirting and watching everybody play. I actually went and visited some schools to see if that was an option.

"Something told me to stay here. I think it's God's plan that I'm here."

Up until this season, Beecher's claim to fame on the team has been his high G.P.A. As a math major, he was won the Andrew Sorenson Scholar-Athlete Award, which goes to the player with the highest grade point average on the team. In somewhat of a tongue and cheek manner, he said that may be changing. "My grades are slipping a little since the announcement (of him as a starter). My priorities have changed…but…that's ok."

After last season and the playing time that Chris Smelley accrued, Beecher became an afterthought in the minds of many Gamecock fans. People began to assume Smelley and Steven Garcia would vie for the starting position this fall. However, Coach Spurrier never makes those assumptions, always allowing everyone an opportunity to compete for a spot on the field. Tommy Beecher seized his opportunity this past spring. "There was a reason I was here the whole time, I felt. I just had to wait a little longer than most people.

"Shoot, it's my redshirt junior year and I've got two more years (to play). I've learned Coach Spurrier's offense the past three years. A lot of people would say now is a good time to step in and play."

In most big time programs it is common to see quarterbacks have to wait until their 3rd or 4th year to see significant playing time, so Beecher feels he is right on schedule. The spring game was not the most successful outing for Beecher, or Chris Smelley for that matter, but Tommy isn't letting it bother him.

He says he can put a positive spin on some things after watching the video. "I felt good about the spring game. There were three picks thrown, but those plays were plays that we'll fix in the fall.

"The stats weren't very good in the spring game for either me or Smelley, but we watched the film and there were a lot of good things that happened. We were working with younger guys out there, so during fall camp we'll have time to make those mistakes right."

Tommy was named the starting quarterback two days after the spring game, saying that Coach Spurrier called him to his office to let him know. Beecher says this has affected the way he has prepared during the summer. "I think Coach Spurrier wanted my teammates to have an idea of who the starter was going to be.

"We've been working hard. We have pass skill every Monday and Wednesday night. We're getting more and more confident every time we go out there, and I think the receivers and I are getting a good chance to work on timing."

In last year's season opener, Tommy Beecher got some significant playing time due to Blake Mitchell's early season suspension. In that game, Beecher was 11-15 for 137 yards and a touchdown toss. He also ran the ball four times for 17 yards. He saw limited time against SC State, where he was 3-7 for 38 yards and one interception. He was 0-1 against Florida in spot duty.

For his career, Tommy is 16 of 25 for 194 yards and 2 touchdown passes. He has rushed seven times for ten yards. In all, he has competed in 15 games over the last two seasons. On opening day August 28th, he will be under center as the 2008 starting quarterback for the South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks. There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Tommy Beecher.

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