Smelley to start against Vanderbilt

The Gamecocks did not get much of a break on Labor Day, as they went through an unusually long practice. Afterward all the talk was about who would get the start at quarterback against Vanderbilt on Thursday. For the first time since the NC State game, Tommy Beecher dressed, but he still did not practice, leaving Chris Smelley alone at the top of the depth chart.


"[Smelley] played well, and probably deserved to start even if Tommy isn't injured," said Steve Spurrier. "But Tommy is injured so we don't have to worry about this, that, or the other. It appears that Chris is going to be the starter now unless something happens between here and Thursday night."

As of Monday, Beecher is doubtful to even play against Vanderbilt. It is possible Beecher could heal enough by game time to serve as Smelley's backup, but starting is out of the question.

"He's hurt," Spurrier said. "He couldn't even throw the ball."

If Beecher cannot play, that would leave Stephen Garcia as the backup. Despite some recent improvement, Spurrier said Garcia is still not prepared to play. When a reporter asked Spurrier if it was possible Garcia could see the field on Thursday, Spurrier laughed.

"He could, if Chris gets bonked in the head and gets dizzy or something, we'll let [Garcia] go in," he said.

Smelley will be facing a solid Vanderbilt defense that has a standout cornerback in D.J. Moore. Spurrier had praise for the Commodores, but added that if Carolina can eliminate the mistakes that plagued them against Vanderbilt last season and in the opener against NC State, the Gamecocks should be able to put some points on the board.

"They're a good defense," said Spurrier. "They play their style, and it's been very good for them. Hopefully we will not play the way we've played lately. We're going to try to stay onside, and if they can't stay onside we're going to take them out of the game."


Rychleski addresses freshman punter's decision to leave

Following practice on Monday, special teams coach Ray Rychleski spoke with the media, and offered some insight into why freshman punter Ryan Doerr left the team. Doerr had initially been expected to split time with punter Spencer Lanning, but the coaches decided to redshirt Doerr this season. Leading up to last Thursday's opener, Rychleski yelled at Doerr during practice, and that led to Doerr deciding to leave.

"I jumped him pretty good for the first time, and he probably wasn't ready for that," said Rychleski. "If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have did it that way. He took it the wrong way, it was a misunderstanding."

Rychleski pointed out that he yells at all the players during practice, but he went on to say he takes full responsibility for what happened. He spoke to Doerr last Saturday, the day Doerr decided to leave, and apologized.

"We had a very good conversation on the phone and mended our ways, but sometimes the damage is done," he said. "Like I told him, don't let three minutes of conversation ruin a career. He's got to do what's best for him. We amicably came to a real good understanding."

Doerr has given no indication of whether he might return to Carolina, or where he will transfer if he goes elsewhere, but Rychleski offered his full support to the Texas native. He said he has spoken with Doerr's father. Mike Triglia, Doerr's roommate, has also spoken with the punter.

"He's a fine young man," Rychleski said. "I hope he reconsiders, I hope he comes back. If he does want to go somewhere else, I'll help him with anywhere he wants to go. He's a great kid. His family and himself are as great of people as there are, and I hope he'll come back."


Succop hasn't forgotten 2007 loss to Commodores

Doerr's departure means that kicker Ryan Succop is elevated to the backup punter position behind Lanning. Succop punted for the Gamecocks last season, and was a preseason All-SEC pick as a punter, but Rychleski wanted to split the kicking duties to help reduce the wear on Succop's leg. After one game, Succop can already feel a difference.

"It's really good to have a little break," he said. "My leg felt a lot better on Thursday night than it has when you go out there and punt every day and kickoff and kick field goals. I felt a little fresher. Spencer did a really good job for his first game, and I think he's going to surprise a lot of people and do really well."

The last time Carolina visited Vanderbilt, Succop booted a career-long 55-yard field goal. But when the Commodores come up, nobody remembers that. All anyone thinks of is the 17-6 loss at home a season ago. When he spoke to reporters, Succop tried to downplay the importance of that game.

"We're trying not to think too much about last year, and just take it as the game that is this week and the game that we're focusing on," he said. "Obviously it's a very important game for us because it's our first SEC game. In order to accomplish some of the things we want to accomplish this year, it's important to get off to a good start. We're taking this game very seriously, and we're ready to get going on Thursday night."

Succop was only able to hold the company line for so long before his real feelings came through.

"I remember very clearly getting beat; it wasn't a good feeling," said Succop. "Last year's game was very frustrating, obviously. I remember getting down early and thinking we're going to come back and win the game, and it didn't happen. We're ready to go this year, and go up to Nashville and come out with a W."

Succop is not alone in those feelings. Needless to say, the entire team has bad memories of that game, and no one, coaches included, is going to let the memory of that loss fade away.

"We had our team meeting [Saturday], and obviously it was brought up, what happened last year," Succop said. "Everybody remembers it, and some of the highlights were shown. I think everyone is fired up to go out there and show what we can do this year and go back and beat Vanderbilt."

Succop had all of the Gamecocks' points in that loss, kicking field goals of 35 and 32 yards. The general sense is that the Gamecocks, ranked 6th in the country at that time, grew complacent and went into the game expected to win by default, rather than having to earn the victory. Succop disagreed with that assessment.

"I know I didn't think about it that way, and I can't speak for other guys, but I think everyone was focused," he said. "We just didn't play well. This year we've got another chance to go out and have a great year, and that's what we're focusing on."


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