Smelley gets the starting nod

The question on every Gamecock fan's mind this week was: Will much-hyped redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia, who finally saw significant action last week against UAB, make the first start of his career on the road against the Ole Miss Rebels this weekend? On Thursday those fans got their answer. Read inside for a full report on Thursday's practice.

Those hoping to see Garcia make his first career start in Oxford, Miss. will have to wait at least another week. Following Thursday's practice USC head coach Steve Spurrier announced redshirt sophomore Chris Smelley would get the start, his fifth in a row.

"We simply feel he's mentally better prepared than Stephen," Spurrier said. "And we'll go from there."

Spurrier, who earlier this week looked to be leaning towards starting Garcia, would not say if the talented gun-slinger would play meaningful snaps Saturday.

"Chris Smelley will start the game, and we'll see how it goes to win the game," Spurrier replied to further questions about Garcia playing.

The quarterbacks could get a big boost Saturday from All-SEC wide receiver Kenny McKinley, who has missed the last three and a half games after pulling his hamstring at Vanderbilt. The senior receiver could see action against the Rebels this weekend, according to Spurrier.

"Kenny McKinley is going to see how he feels on Saturday," Spurrier said. "He's going to be about like those NFL guys. He's going to go out for warm-ups and see how much he can go, and we'll go from there."

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jason Barnes will start on one side, and if McKinley can't go then Joe Hills, Dion Lecorn or Matt Clements will get the call.

"Joe Hills, Dion Lecorn and Matt Clements, we may flip a coin. They're all in a wad," Spurrier said. "That's what I just got through telling them right then: ‘You guys are all in a wad, until somebody steps forward.' Jason Barnes did some good things last week; he's one of the starters. After that if Kenny can't go we'll give them all a shot, I guess."

The Gamecocks' starting five on the offensive line will stay unchanged as Terrence Campbell will get his third straight start at right guard. Heath Batchelor will back him up, according to Spurrier.

The defense will feature its usual starters with Captain Munnerlyn's absence the only change. Munnerlyn will not start, but will play most of the game.

Spurrier and the quarterbacks stayed behind after practice to get in a little extra work before the team takes Friday off. After a solid week of practice, Spurrier said the quarterbacks were a little sluggish today.

"We just needed to just take our steps and throw it quicker," Spurrier said. "Sometimes they don't understand how fast the game is. Sometimes we don't practice as fast as we should. We're just trying to get a little quicker, trying to get the ball out of their hands and let Stephen know this isn't high school ball anymore.

"You've got to take your steps and get rid of it. You've got to have some place to throw it, or else then you take off running. I think the other night he took his steps and looked for a place to run a bunch of times. Now that was his first time out. We're just trying to coach better to see if we can throw and catch better."

The Gamecocks will take on the Rebels in Oxford at 2 p.m. EST, and the game will be televised on a PPV basis only throughout the state of South Carolina.


- Offensive lineman Quintin Richardson missed Thursday's practice because he was doing community service.

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