Gamecocks set to begin preparations for NCSU

Carolina scrimmaged Tuesday night for the final time before next Thursday's season opener against NC State. The offense was not impressive during the scrimmage, but more importantly it avoided the mistakes that plagued it during previous scrimmages. Afterwards, Steve Spurrier mentioned a few positives and a few disappointments, but was largely indifferent to the proceedings.


"It was nothing spectacular tonight," he said several times, "nothing big happened. We had a bunch of plays, and nothing happened very good. The defense looked better than the offense. They gave up a couple of big balls. Other than that, the offense didn't have much going."

The offensive struggles came as no surprise for two reasons. First, although quarterbacks Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley played, the majority of the established players were held out of the scrimmage. Starters Kenny McKinley, Jared Cook, Justin Sorensen, Heath Batchelor, and Garrett Anderson combined to play one snap (by McKinley). Still, Spurrier expected more from his offense.

"The offense is struggling," he said. "We're going to get better though. We didn't play our top guys, [but] I thought we could make a few more first downs than we did. We've got a lot of work to do to see if we can make a few first downs here and there right now."

As bad as he made it sound at times, Spurrier was nowhere near as pessimistic as he was a week ago, when he was predicting doom and gloom after Beecher struggled in a scrimmage.

"We're generally pretty slow at this time," noted Spurrier. "We're always slow against our defense, no matter how good or how bad our defense is. We look better on the practice field than we do in here. I don't know why, but that's not a good omen, is it?"

Somehow, Spurrier found a positive in that problem.

"Sometimes it's good that you don't get confident this early in the year, thinking that you're good," he continued. "We certainly don't think we're very good right now."

Beecher did not have an outstanding scrimmage, going just 5-12 for 118 yards. He did toss a 57-yard touchdown pass to Jason Barnes and avoided throwing an interception. While confirming that Beecher is the unquestioned starter, Spurrier said that Beecher did "all right."

"He just didn't have a lot of time, didn't have a lot of guys open," said Spurrier. "He didn't do much. Chris Smelley probably did a little better overall. Maybe he had a little more time, maybe had a guy open. I don't know, we'll have to watch the tape and see what happened."

For all the talk of various struggles, Spurrier did utter some golden words for Gamecock fans.

"We'll start getting ready for the game probably tomorrow," said Spurrier, and that means kickoff is right around the corner.


Brinkley confident he will be ready for opener

Linebacker Jasper Brinkley was one of several starters who sat out the scrimmage. Brinkley has been plagued by a heel injury, and he is sitting out the scrimmages as a precaution. Just eight days from kickoff, Brinkley is confident he will be ready to play against N.C. State. The senior All-SEC selection said that he is able to run straight-line, but he still feels pain when he is shifting and cutting.

"I'm like 90% [healthy]," Brinkley said Tuesday night.

New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson worried recently about the lack of reps Brinkley has gotten in the new scheme. He thought that even though Brinkley is sitting in on meetings, watching film, and studying the playbook, that work is no substitute for actually being on the field and reacting to what is in front of him. Brinkley is not nearly as concerned about the lack of physical reps, noting that he gets plenty of "mental reps."

"I'm pretty good at getting those mental reps," he insisted. "I can catch on pretty quick."

Although he was careful to say he only looked at the defense, Brinkley was able to offer an analysis of the offensive performance during the scrimmage.

"The offense didn't do too good, and had some minor mental mistakes, but that's why we have film," he said. "We'll go in and correct those mistakes and come out tomorrow and fix them."

It may seem like, with just more than a week to go, a team should be fine-tuning rather than correcting mistakes. Brinkley stated emphatically that he has no fears whether the Gamecocks will be ready when the Wolfpack comes to town.

"I think we'll be ready come August 28th," said Brinkley. "We've got some great coaches, and I know they're going to have us well-prepared."


Notes:

- Running back Mike Davis again missed practice, this time with a stomach illness. In his absence, Taylor Rank worked with the first team.

- Wide receiver Joe Hills returned to practice and caught one pass for 28 yards.

- Spurrier fell one short of the "record" he set in the previous scrimmage for quarterbacks played. Michael McQueeny has an eye infection that kept him out, meaning only six quarterbacks participated in the scrimmage. McQueeny still had a better night than Stephen Garcia, who went 0-5 with two interceptions.

- The quarterbacks did spread around their throws. Only one receiver, walk-on Stephen Flint, caught more than one pass.

- The Gamecocks practice again Wednesday night. That practice is closed to the public.

Stats:

SCORING PLAYS:

Jason Barnes 57-yard pass from Tommy Beecher (Ryan Succop kick)
Ryan Succop 22-yard field goal
Taylor Rank 1-yard run (Succop kick)
D.L. Moore 13-yard pass from Reid McCollum

PASSING:

Tommy Beecher 5-12-0-118; Chris Smelley 5-11-0-83; Reid McCollum 3-5-1-31; Aramis Hillary 1-3-0-15; Stephen Garcia 0-5-2-0; Zac Brindise 0-1-0-0

RUSHING:

Taylor Rank 5-24; Kenny Miles 8-23; Brian Maddox 5-14; Eric Baker 2-10; Bobby Wallace 4-9; Stephen Garcia 3-7; Zac Brindise 1-2; Aramis Hillary 1-1; C.C. Whitlock 1-(-3); Reid McCollum 1-(-5); Chris Smelley 1-(-7); Tommy Beecher 5-(-20)

RECEIVING:

Stephen Flint 2-23; Jason Barnes 1-57; Moe Brown 1-52; Matt Clements 1-29; Joe Hills 1-28; Weslye Saunders 1-13; D.L. Moore 1-13; Alex McGrath 1-10; Brian Maddox 1-8; Taylor Rank 1-6; Bryan Kingrey 1-5; Eric Baker 1-5; Dion LeCorn 1-(-2)


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