King earns starting spot, Beecher banged up

The Gamecocks practiced on Saturday in 90 degree weather, a notable change from the rain that dogged Carolina all last week. It was the first practice since their "interesting" season-opening win over NC State. The session saw the implementation of a series of personnel moves designed to make the next game at Vanderbilt a little less interesting.


"After reviewing all the tapes and so forth, it was an interesting game," said Steve Spurrier. "A lot of positives came out of the game as far as the way we played in the fourth quarter. There were some good positives there. Our defense was solid the whole game, and our special teams were solid."

Spurrier went on to say that the offensive line has the most improving to do this week. He noted that even more frustrating than the physical mistakes were the mental mistakes.

"The false starts were pitiful, and something we need to stop doing," Spurrier said. "All we need to do is look at the Vandy tape from last year. We can get rid of the false starts, so we're going to try our best to put guys out there who can wait on the snap."

With that in mind, sophomore Jarriel King will make his first career start at left tackle. King replaced starter Hutch Eckerson in the second quarter and helped solidify the line late in the game.

Another potential lineup change could be at quarterback. Tommy Beecher struggled mightily in his first career start, while Chris Smelley came in late and led three scoring drives. Adding to the drama, Beecher sat out practice Saturday with a sore left shoulder. Beecher is expected to return to practice Sunday or Monday, and be healthy for the game. Still, Spurrier declined to name a starter.

"We'll just wait and see; we don't have to make that decision [yet]," he said. "When [Beecher] dove in there to get us in field goal range, he got hit on his left shoulder a little bit more than his head. He got bonked in the head also, but he was just battered and bruised, and it was time to let Chris go out there."

With Beecher out, highly touted redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia took snaps with the second team. Garcia did some good things in practice, but Spurrier is not yet ready to put him in a real game.

"It was interesting seeing him out there pitching it around a little bit," Spurrier said. "He looked decent at times. He's got some talent, he's got some ability, [but] he's not the smartest quarterback in the world yet. Hopefully we can get him a little smarter."

Thanks to several upsets on Saturday, the Gamecocks have a chance to move into the top 25 when the polls come out on Sunday. At the time of this writing, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Michigan all lost, and all were ranked near the bottom of the AP or USA Today Polls. Spurrier is not interested in backing into the lower reaches of the Top 25, though.

"We're not worried about whether we're considered a top 25 team," he said. "It's always nice when you can say you're ranked, that's always sort of a compliment. When you go out recruiting you like to be able to say you were ranked some of the time. It's good for our sports information department."


King ready for first start at left tackle

With less than one game of experience under his belt, Jarriel King will find himself starting at one of the most difficult positions on the field: left tackle. It is all the more impressive when you consider that King had never played offense before the Gamecocks opened camp a month ago.

"I think I did quite well, coming from not playing this position and just the little bit of time I had to learn the plays and everything," King said Saturday. "I've got a lot of learning to do. I've got to improve my running game a lot more."

Still it is quite impressive that King has been able to be so productive at a new position. It speaks to his natural athleticism, as well as his ability to learn assignments, that he has become an instant contributor.

"I call myself an overachiever," he said. "I'm not saying I'm going to come in off the bat and be the savior of the o-line, but I expect to come in and do what I've got to do: work hard and earn that position. Coach told me off the bat he wanted to get me involved in the game plan. As far as starting, I knew I would have to work my way up to that position. Obviously I'm doing that. Some of the guys are making bad decisions, and some are making better ones than others, and so far, so good."

Although King has earned the individual praise, the offensive line as a whole struggled in the first game. King is not immune to the criticism. In fact, he welcomes it. Even though he was not on the field for the beginning of the game, King took the blame for Beecher's early struggles.

"Off the bat we're disappointed," said King. "Every time we came back to the sidelines we were disappointed. As a unit we were all disappointed. We're just glad we got together, finally. I think it took us actually getting fed up, getting tired of messing up here, messing up there. I put it on the o-line, because our job is to protect the quarterback and we got off to a rocky start. We pulled it together, but I feel like it was too late because we already got a quarterback out. Next game I'm hoping that we come out like we did in the second half, and have everything together from the first snap."

King has never lacked for confidence. In his first interview of summer practice, he told GamecockAnthem.com he would be a starter, despite having been an offensive lineman for a matter of days. Where others might come off as arrogant, King does not. Instead, he sounds confident in his own abilities, and also his willingness to be coached and to outwork everyone else on the field.

"I'm going to get it done on the offensive line," he reassured reporters. "I already told coach I'm going to give it all I've got. Every day I feel like I can give a little bit more, so that's what I'm going to try to do."

Not surprisingly, however, the career defensive lineman still has moments when he wants to be on the other side of the ball. He experienced a bit of shock during his first series against NC State, when his instincts were still telling him to tackle someone.

"That first series, it didn't feel bad, but it felt different from playing so long on the defensive line, then not playing two years, and coming back on the offensive line," King laughed. "I was still thinking I wanted to tackle people during the game. On the interceptions I was running like hell, trying to get a tackle. I was trying to get that good feeling in one more time. It's kind of sad I was looking forward to getting a tackle on the interceptions."

One reporter suggested that perhaps King could play on kick coverage. He liked the idea, but even that was not enough contact for King, who wanted the most physically demanding position on kick coverage.

"I want to be a wedge buster," King smiled.


Notes:

- Kyle Nunn, who spent fall camp at right tackle, practiced Saturday at left guard and could see playing time against Vanderbilt as the coaches look to upgrade the position.

- Freshman punter Ryan Doerr has left the team. The Katy, TX, native told coaches he was homesick. Doerr was expected to split time this year with Spencer Lanning, who punted all three times in the opener. Doerr's vacated scholarship will be awarded to long snapper Charles Turner.


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