Gamecocks prep for Saturday scrimmage

The Gamecocks closed practice Friday night, and Mother Nature finally cooperated. There were no thunderstorms to drench players, and cooler temperatures were a welcome relief. Although Steve Spurrier said the practice was a successful session, it was a bad night for ankles, as three players left practice with sprained ankles.

Captain Munnerlyn (right ankle), Jasper Brinkley (left), and Jamon Meredith (right) all had to leave practice after rolling an ankle. None of the injuries are considered serious, and all were walking around at practice. Surprisingly, all were injured during non-contact drills.

"It's funny the more I read about players all over the country getting hurt, it's no contact drills," Spurrier said. "Every time you plant or do something, something could go wrong. I think they're going to be all right, they just rolled their ankle a little bit."

In other injury news, fortunately not involving ankles, running back Mike Davis had his arm in a sling after suffering a shoulder injury on Thursday (also in a non-contact drill). The exact nature of Davis' injury is unknown, but Spurrier said it was like a sprain. Davis is expected to return next week, but in the meantime a trio of unproven running backs are seeing increased reps in practice.

"Eric Baker got a lot of snaps - he and Brian Maddox," Spurrier said. "They should be ready if Mike can't go. [Taylor Rank]'s a good, solid back. If we have some injuries, he's ready to go."

Friday marked the completion of the first week of practice for the Gamecocks, but that did not mean Spurrier was any closer to knowing what kind of team he has this year. When one reporter asked if Spurrier could tell her what he thought of the team, Spurrier smiled.

"No, I can't; we're still practicing," he laughed. "Tommy Beecher is still our quarterback. He does a lot of good things. He can get better though. He's getting a lot of practice, and that's what we need. We need a lot of snaps before the real games, with a lot of our players."

Besides getting repetitions, the Gamecocks are also preparing for the season with an unlikely training method: Pilates. Several players began doing Pilates over the summer, which got the Head Ball Coach interested. He does not know if it will help on the football field, but Spurrier spent several minutes trying to convince reporters of the virtues of Pilates, even demonstrating a few moves.

"We've been doing it about 2-3 days a week," he said. "Pilates is sort of a stretching exercise. You burn a lot of calories. It's mainly to strengthen your stomach muscles, your hips, your butt, your core. I love it. I don't know yet [if it will help on the field], we haven't played a game. How we perform on August 28th, you'll be able to tell if we've improved or not."

Thomas gearing up for senior season

The Gamecocks are expected to lean on their defense early in the season while the offense jells under a new quarterback. There are plenty of strengths on that side of the ball, but perhaps none is stronger than the secondary. It is a testament to the depth and talent in the defensive backfield that senior cornerback Carlos Thomas, who has started games since his freshman season, has barely received a mention this fall. The lack of attention does not bother Thomas, who said Friday he believes he is part of the best secondary in the SEC.

"We go out and we work hard every day, study film, our coaches are hard on us," he said. "We've got great coaching. I feel like when it's all said and done we will be the best secondary."

Behind Thomas is a pair of corners making a strong push for playing time. Freshman Akeem Auguste has repeatedly turned heads with his strong play, and senior Stoney Woodson has experience and versatility. With pre-season All-SEC selection Captain Munnerlyn firmly entrenched on the other side of the field, there has been speculation that, despite his experience, Thomas' role as a starter may be in jeopardy. Thomas is feeling the pressure, but he thinks it is only making him better.

"It helps me a lot," said Thomas. "I think that maybe I need somebody to push me. Akeem and Stoney Woodson, they're probably just as good [as me]. I know I've got to go out there and play [hard] or I won't."

Most players approach their senior season with a sense of urgency, wanting to make their mark in their school's history, or position themselves for the NFL draft. Thomas said repeatedly that he is not thinking about either of those things.

"I'm trying really just to stay away from all that," Thomas insisted. "All I'm trying to do is go out and have fun and play like I know I can this year. Most people probably would try to have a lot of urgency playing this year, but not me. I'm just going to be laid back and try to have fun."

Thomas went on to say that he thinks that perspective will lead to his best season yet. By clearing his head of distractions and trusting his new position coach, Shane Beamer, Thomas is excited about the new season.

"Coach Beamer is staying on me hard," he said. "I'm just coming out with a different attitude this year, just letting go and having fun playing the game."


- Tight end Jared Cook remains sidelined with a toe injury. He is expected to resume practicing next week.

- Gerrod Sinclair wore a yellow jersey after suffering a head injury.

- The scrimmage on Saturday will begin about 4:00, p.m.and last until 6:00. It will feature starters as well as reserves, but is closed to the public.

- Fans who want to see their Gamecocks again before the season opener will have their chance on Sunday, when Carolina holds its annual Fan Appreciation Day at 1:00 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.

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