Gamecocks return to practice fields

After having the night off from practice Thursday, the Gamecocks returned to the Bluff Rd. practice fields Friday afternoon. Mother Nature was not kind to the Gamecocks however, as off and on showers drenched the team for much of the two-hour session. With just six days until the season opener, the Gamecocks began preparations for NC State. Read inside as has the full report.

"Today is watermelon day. We've got some super Gamecocks who bring some fresh watermelon out for the team so we appreciate that. Other than that, [it was] just a normal practice day out in shorts today," Spurrier said following practice. "We were running around okay. We're still six days away, so this is sort of like a Sunday before a Saturday game. We didn't do too much today really."

Spurrier responded matter-of-factly to the recent announcement by NC State head coach Tom O'Brien that redshirt freshman dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson will start the opener against the Gamecocks.

"Well, it's interesting they've chosen him, but I guess they chose him because they think he's the best quarterback to help them win the ballgame," Spurrier said. "So, that's how you make decisions. That's why Tommy Beecher is starting for us; we think he's the best one. So, we don't know a lot about their quarterback, but hopefully we'll be prepared."

Spurrier also complimented the Wolfpack and believes they will provide a tough early test for the Gamecocks.

"I think they're a good, tough team," Spurrier said. "I think they're right there about like us to be honest with you. We should match up pretty evenly, I think. We know it's going to be a tough game. We've got to play well. We've got to play a lot better than we've been playing if we expect to beat them, certainly."

The Head Ball Coach singled out Wolfpack All-ACC defensive end Willie Young as a player South Carolina will have to contain in Thursday;s opener.

"He's an excellent pass rusher and run stopper, very active," Spurrier. "We've got to make sure we know where he's coming from most of the time."

The Gamecocks have been fortunate not to have any serious injuries this preseason, and Spurrier was optimistic that senior running back Mike Davis, who suffered a banged up shoulder earlier in fall camp and has been held out of contact drills since, will be ready to go for the opener.

"He's ready to play. He's pretty close," Spurrier said. "We'll find out when he gets hit [if he's 100 percent], but he should be okay."

Defensive tackle Nathan Pepper missed practice with the flu.

McKinley Ready for Opener

The South Carolina offense has taken a verbal beating from Spurrier in the past few weeks, particularly after scrimmages, that may have some Gamecock fans worried with the opener mere days away.

All-SEC receiver Kenny McKinley has been through four offseasons now as a Gamecock, and may know the intricacies of the Spurrier offense as well as most anyone. Despite Spurrier's comments, the soon-to-be career receptions leader at USC isn't worried about the offense's production this year.

"Every year the defense always outshines us [in practice]," McKinley said. "We're going against those guys every day, so they know our plays; they know everything about us. I really can't wait until August 28th when we go against another opponent."

McKinley does not have much longer to wait as that other opponent comes to town in just six days. He understands the team has a hard week of work ahead of them.

"We've got some kinks and stuff we need to get out," McKinley said. "Overall, we feel like we're doing alright right now. We're not looking good; we're not looking too bad. So, I just feel like we've got to get better."

The veteran receiver and team leader did not place blame on any one unit, but did say the offense as a whole has to improve. For anyone wondering if the "offensive struggles" are a result of starting quarterback Tommy Beecher's play, McKinley erased all doubt of that.

"Tommy's looking good. Tommy's looking real good," McKinley said. "He's putting the ball where it needs to be. Sometimes receivers are dropping the ball. He's making good decisions back there. He's scrambling, running for his life throwing the ball. I just hope he keeps getting better. I can't wait until the game."

Following Wednesday's practice Spurrier praised the USC secondary and their ability to "blanket" his receivers. McKinley added that there are long-term advantages to going against those guys every day, but that the defense could have an advantage in practice by seeing their offensive tendencies day after day.

"I feel they're the best secondary in the nation," McKinley said. "We go against them every day, so it makes us better. I'm glad we get to go against those guys every day, because it will make it better for when we play everybody else this season."

McKinley believes the work against the Carolina secondary and overall defense will have the offense more than prepared when the Gamecocks kick off their 2008 campaign Thursday.

"We've been out here for the past three or four weeks," McKinley said. "It seems like we're just playing each other. Now it's time to go beat up on somebody else. I can't wait. I can't wait, because I'm tired of playing the same guys every day. We're ready to play NC State."

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