Spurrier looks back on midweek scrimmage

The Gamecocks followed up the Wednesday night scrimmage with a Thursday afternoon session. Steve Spurrier was extremely critical of the team's performance in the scrimmage, but as is usually the case, he felt better after he had a chance to sleep on it. Viewing the tape also helped, and Spurrier was much more understanding of quarterback Tommy Beecher's performance a day later.


"We had a few good plays here and there," said Spurrier. "I think we learned a little bit here and there. A couple times Tommy had nowhere to throw. They covered us like a blanket. He just needs to throw it away sometimes or take off and get back to the line of scrimmage. He had a little hesitation, but hopefully we can get him out of that."

After watching the tape, Spurrier had high praise for a pair of young players, freshman wide receiver C.C. Whitlock and sophomore safety Chris Culliver. It is unclear how much Whitlock will be asked to contribute this season, but he has almost certainly avoided a redshirt. Spurrier is already looking forward to Whitlock's sophomore season, though.

"C.C.'s got a chance to help us. We're hoping he's going to be Kenny McKinley next year. He's got the best chance, probably, of any of the young receivers to be really a player like Kenny."

Culliver was one of those young wide receivers, but he moved over to the other side of the field in the spring. The move has paid off, as Culliver has excelled at safety. His ability will allow Darian Stewart to move up to the hybrid safety/linebacker position in the 4-2-5 defense. Spurrier was asked if, now that he knows Culliver is a natural at safety, he regretted keeping Culliver at wide receiver for his freshman season.

"No, not really," he said. "Chris Culliver's played very well over there. Chris Culliver very easily is a starter right now."

The main story coming out of Thursday's "so-so" practice was the yellow jerseys. Jasper Brinkley, Jarriel King, Kevin Young, Bobby Wallace, and Mike Davis were among the players who donned yellow no-contact jerseys. Young is expected to return in a "couple of weeks," according to Spurrier. The rest are expected to return to practice any day. Stephen Garcia, Jamon Meredith, and Taylor Rank all returned to practice Thursday, sort of.

"They were back limping around, so if you call that back then they're back," Spurrier said, "but they're not anywhere close."

Also on the injury list was wide receiver Joe Hills, who is expected to miss 2-3 days. Hills suffered a sprained toe during the scrimmage, on a play where he caught a touchdown pass from Chris Smelley.

"Joe pulled a ‘Gamecock,'" Spurrier said. "I guess we'll call it a ‘Gamecock' when you're going in the end zone and you relax. We've had Weslye Saunders and Nate Pepper fumble going in. [Hills] was across the line, but he didn't realize Akeem [Auguste] was hustling to break it up and fell on his foot. Hopefully one of these days our guys will learn that just because you cross the goal line or even get near it, the game's not over. He just relaxed a little bit, and Akeem fell on his foot."

The Gamecocks will scrimmage on Saturday for the final time this fall. The scrimmage will be for the more experienced players, as Carolina begins to install its game plan. As a result, the scrimmage will be closed, for fear of spies infiltrating Williams-Brice Stadium.

"We can't open up the scrimmage," said Spurrier. "I wish we could if it was only the Gamecock fans. We're going to actually work on some plays we hope to use in the first or second week of the season. We just felt like it would be smart to close it up. If it was only Gamecock fans, we'd open, but when you go public with it you've got to let everybody in. I'm not convinced that somebody from Raleigh, North Carolina, or somebody from Nashville [would not say], 'Hey let's see what them boys are up to over there.' That happens everywhere so we might as well be careful."


Johnson discusses the state of the defense

The offensive struggles during the Wednesday night scrimmage have been well documented. It stands to reason, then, that Ellis Johnson should be very happy with the job done by his defensive unit. However, Johnson remains anxious to find out what kind of defense he actually has.

"I just don't know who we are and how we are," he said. "Obviously this was good for our football team [Wednesday night], because these guys need the work. I still don't know if I've seen our best 11 out on the field at the same time."

Injuries were a recurring theme for Johnson. With linebacker Jasper Brinkley, defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye, and several others all missing time during camp, there is a trickle down effect that makes it difficult for the coaches to evaluate the talent on hand.

"When I've got Jasper Brinkley out, I've got to keep [Marvin] Sapp and [Rodney] Paulk at Mike [linebacker]," Johnson explained. "I'd like to look at them at Will. I think they ought to be good Will linebackers. Those are some things that I hope in the next five or six days we can get behind us and start focusing on the opener."

While it is not optimal, Johnson is not too concerned about the uncertainty. He noted that there is a lot of talent on the field, and he already knows who several of the starters will be.

"I've been in worse situations, where you didn't even know who your best six were," he said. "You get a little anxious now, going into your last scrimmage. You want to find out who those guys are. It's okay if there's two or three good players competing for a job, but frankly we've got guys in and out of the lineup right now with injuries and some other factors, that I don't think we've had the time to find out who's the best player at what positions."

The Saturday scrimmage is of critical importance for Johnson as he evaluates players. The players should understand the new scheme by now, and following the scrimmage, he hopes to have a lineup set. Setting the lineup will enable Johnson to begin working on what to do with the players on the field.

"I'm pleased with some of the improvement we've made," he said. "We've thrown a lot of stuff on them assignment-wise, more than we'd ever use, but things we needed to expose them to. I'm really not sure right now who our best 11 are, and haven't really polished out what we're going to do when we find those 11."


Notes:

- Garrett Anderson appears to have the upper hand in the battle for starting center, but Spurrier refused to give him the edge. "He and Seaver [Brown] are pretty close in there," he said.

- The Gamecocks practiced in the afternoon, instead of the evening, so that Spurrier could make his weekly call-in show. Fortunately, the temperature was in the mid-80s, so the players did not suffer too much.

- Carolina will practice twice on Friday, the third of four two-a-days. Both practices are closed to the public.

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