Stewart expected to play on Thursday

The Gamecocks practiced Tuesday for the final time before their season opener Thursday night against NC State. The inclement weather stayed away just long enough for the team to practice in helmets and shorts without getting wet. Following practice, coach Steve Spurrier reviewed some of the lineup decisions and then announced the start of what he hopes will become a new tradition at Carolina.

"We're going to have a Gamecock Walk," Spurrier announced following Tuesday's practice. "If our players want to high-five the fans and give them a fist bump, something like that, we're going to do it. I think our players need to know the importance of playing football at the University of South Carolina."

When the players get off the team bus about 5:45 p.m. at the northwest corner of Williams-Brice Stadium, fans are invited to line up as the players walk from the bus to the locker room.

Spurrier also addressed some of the lingering questions about the decision to start Taylor Rank over Mike Davis at running back.

"Mike hasn't hit any basically all preseason," Spurrier said. "He's been hurt about the whole time. Taylor really had a better preseason, and he's done everything we've asked. I'm not unhappy with Mike."

Spurrier also said that a decision had been made regarding the availability of spur Darian Stewart. Stewart missed nearly a week of practice with a bruised foot, and only returned to limited practice on Monday.

"Darian was running around," Spurrier said. "He should be able to play some. I don't know if he can play all of it, but he'll play some, we think."

The Gamecocks will go into the NC State game planning to use at least six offensive linemen, possibly more. Hutch Eckerson will start at left tackle, but Jarriel King will get playing time as well. Spurrier also noted that the coaches will have a short leash for players who make mistakes, singling out right guard Heath Batchelor as one player who has to cut down on mistakes.

"We'll play Hutch Eckerson and Jarriel King at left tackle," said Spurrier. "They're pretty even as we see it right now. Hopefully [Batchelor] can play a little bit smarter than he's been practicing. He's made some mental errors out here that are very careless."

The Gamecocks will go through a light walk through on Wednesday, like they'd do for a normal Friday practice.

Kickoff for Thursday's game is set for 8:01 p.m., and it will be nationally televised on ESPN.

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