Rank to start at running back against NCSU

The storms that rolled through Columbia Monday afternoon did nothing to dampen the Gamecocks, as the team practiced in full pads for more than two hours. Practice continued during the rain, which was probably good preparation for the season opener, when more rain is predicted. The story from practice was lineup changes, as one player returned, one left, and a starter was replaced.

"We had a rainy day today and practiced pretty much right on through it," Steve Spurrier said after practice. "A lot of dropped balls and stuff like that, but it could be wet Thursday night. I don't know if this helped us or not, but we had a pretty decent practice and we'll see what happens Thursday night."

Free safety/Spur Darian Stewart returned to practice after missing almost a week with a heel injury. However, Stewart is not yet assured of being in the lineup Thursday night. If he cannot play, Larry Freeman will likely start, with Antonio Allen the backup.

"Darian Stewart tried to practice a little bit today," said Spurrier. "He's a wait-and-see for Thursday."

Stewart's return was contrasted by the departure of another player, fullback and special teams ace Yvan Banag. In one of the more unusual reasons for a college football player to miss a game, Banag has run afoul of immigration authorities and will not be available Thursday night. Born in Paris, Banag has been in the United States since the eighth grade, but it seems a paperwork error could force him back to France. Spurrier was uncertain Monday night exactly what had happened, but he was optimistic it could be straightened out soon.

"He's got to do some legal papers," he said. "Hopefully he'll get his papers straightened for the next [game]. It's a little unusual."

As unusual as Banag's situation is, the biggest surprise of the night was undoubtedly the announcement that Taylor Rank will start at running back against the Wolfpack instead of senior Mike Davis. The junior from Vancouver (Washington, not Canada, so he has nothing to fear about his citizenship) has started just one game in his career, but he made the most of the situation and rushed for 101 yards.

"Taylor's had a little bit better preseason practice," Spurrier explained. "He had a good summer going to workouts and Mike did too. Mike will be in early though. He's ready to play."

Spurrier declined to say why Rank has leapfrogged Davis and sophomore Brian Maddox. He also did not have an answer as to whether Maddox will play Thursday.

"You need to ask [running backs] Coach [Robert] Gillespie those questions," said Spurrier. "[Rank] has performed well, taken care of the ball, knows what to do. He's a good solid back. Mike will be in there pretty early."

Spurrier was asked to comment on the new television deal announced Monday afternoon by ESPN and the SEC. He did not have much to say, noting that it is really only of interest to the "media boys."

"It's, I guess, a compliment to our league," he said, "but it's not going to help us beat NC State."

Davis ready for season opener

Moments after Spurrier announced that Davis will not start the season opener, the senior running back spoke to the media. He has been hampered in camp, first with a shoulder injury and then with a stomach virus. After practicing in full pads Sunday and Monday, and receiving some contact, Davis said he feels fine and is ready to play.

"I'm good," he said, though he added, "I won't [be able to] tell until we really go full speed."

Davis started nine games as a true freshman, but saw his playing time diminish the last two seasons as he sat behind Cory Boyd. He waited patiently for his return to the spotlight, so it would not be surprising if the demotion angered him. Instead, he seemed to take the move in stride.

"Of course I'm not okay with it," said Davis, "but that's just my burden like everybody else. Whatever coaches want me to do, that's what I'm going to do. What the Head Ball Coach wants to say, that's what I'm going to do."

Davis did not shed any light on why the move was made. He felt like he worked hard in the offseason and in practice, and did his best when he stepped on the field.

"I practice and come out here and go hard every day," he said. "Come out here and play hard, just like the rest of the team. I don't know [if it is designed to send a message]. I'm going to do whatever the coaches want me to do. I'm going to have to live with that."

Davis said his desire to play hard and succeed is the same on every play, regardless of what happens off the field.

"The fuel is always there, just because I'm an athlete and everyone in that room is an athlete," he said. "We're going to go out there and compete every day."

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