Gamecocks continue preparations for UGA

The Gamecocks went through a long practice on Wednesday afternoon as they continued to prepare for the nationally televised match-up with second ranked Georgia this weekend. Speaking to the media after practice, however, Steve Spurrier did his best Bill Belichick impression as he tried to keep as many secrets as possible.


"We had a good practice today," said Spurrier. "We had a lot of tired Gamecocks out here so we're going to try our best to be in the best shape possible. We're going to play a lot of people; we need to play a lot of people come Saturday afternoon."

Spurrier has yet to name a starting quarterback for the game against the Bulldogs, and again declined to do so on Wednesday. The only change was that Spurrier mentioned redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia is closing the gap between himself and veterans Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley, who have each started a game this season.

"We're not ready to [announce a starter]," Spurrier said. "We're still practicing all three of them. We'll make an announcement whenever it's time, I guess. Garcia gets a bunch [of snaps]. He's still sort of lost at times, still doesn't know where everybody's going, but he's making a little bit of improvement here and there."

Spurrier also declined to say where offensive lineman Jamon Meredith will play. Meredith has practiced at tackle and guard since returning from a two-game suspension, and it is uncertain where he will play on Saturday.

"He was trying to play tackle over there, and a little bit of guard," Spurrier said, giving away only the obvious. "He's able to play both of those positions."

In addition to Meredith, Carolina will also see the return of fullback/special teams player Yvan Banag. Banag had been away from the team while he got an immigration issue sorted out. The issue was taken care of, and the Frenchman was back at practice Wednesday, ready to play.

"Banag's back [and] working out," said Spurrier. "He'll be on some special teams."

Whoever starts at quarterback will almost certainly be without wide receiver Kenny McKinley. Spurrier said early in the week it was "very doubtful" McKinley would be able to play with his injured hamstring, but Spurrier lowered the chances even more after Wednesday's practice.

"He's out at this point," he said. "He hasn't done anything yet [in practice]."

After practice, McKinley was working with the other receivers. He was backpedaling gingerly, simulating the play of a defensive back while the other receivers worked on routes.

Elsewhere in the lineup, there has been a shakeup at running back. After starting the opener against NC State, Taylor Rank has now been demoted to fourth-string. Rank rushed for a touchdown against the Wolfpack, but his lack of burst at the line of scrimmage was obvious. In an attempt to get more explosive playmakers behind starter Mike Davis, Spurrier has made sophomore Brian Maddox and freshman Eric Baker the backups.

"Brian Maddox and Eric Baker are getting most of the snaps," he said. "We've got to get a little bit more speed out there, we think. We've got to get both those guys on the field, let them play, and see what happens."


Rychleski discusses "fluke" special teams play against Vandy

One of the key plays in the loss to Vanderbilt was a Commodore punt that bounced off the leg of Carolina's Addison Williams. Vanderbilt recovered the loose ball to set up a quick touchdown. After the game, special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski referred to the play as a fluke, and he reiterated that Wednesday.

"I know you guys don't understand this," he said, poking fun at his favorite punching bag (reporters), "but it was an unlucky play. When a guy who averages 40 yards a punt, and with the wind, punts the ball 28 yards, you see [the punt hit somebody] all the time. It just happened to hit Adi Williams. It was a fluke play."

The punt returner is charged with locating the ball and alerting other players if the punt is short. Returner Captain Munnerlyn did his part correctly, and was yelling the code word "poison," but bad luck meant Williams did not hear it.

"On the field, Captain's yelling "poison, poison," he's swinging his arms and Adi doesn't hear him. If Adi hears him he runs out of bounds. You do have to block some guys. I told Aid today, move on from that."

Rychleski's old team, the Maryland Terrapins, gave up a special teams touchdown last weekend, but much to Rychleski's relief it was the result of a fake punt rather than a blocked kick. That keeps the Terps' streak without a block intact, and also gives Rychleski something to show his Gamecocks during practice.

"We'll learn from it," he said. "They used a tackle eligible play. You learn from every play."

Rychleski also confirmed that punter Ryan Doerr, who left the team following the opener against NC State, has enrolled at Kansas State.


Beecher practicing but receiving fewer reps

Quarterback Tommy Beecher started the season opener against NC State and threw four interceptions before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. The injury kept him out of the Vanderbilt game, but Spurrier indicated Chris Smelley likely would have started regardless. Beecher had not spoken with the media since before the NC State game, and had to be convinced to speak to reporters Wednesday. Beecher said his injury feels better, but he is still behind Smelley and Garcia.

"Chris and Garcia have been getting most of the work," he said. "It still gives me some problems, but it's getting better. If they need me I can play."

When asked if that meant he is the third string quarterback, Beecher said he has no idea. He said he fell behind when he missed an entire week of practice, and there is an element of catch-up involved now.

"I didn't practice for Vanderbilt week," said Beecher. "I got out this week and did as much as I can."


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