Gamecocks go through Wednesday workout

The Gamecocks practiced Wednesday morning and must have thought they were already in Tampa. Players were shedding their pads as soon as practice ended, as temperatures were near 70, there was a warm breeze blowing over the practice fields, and the sky was filled with clouds that looked like they had rolled off the ocean.


"We had some good hot weather today," said Steve Spurrier. "We got a sweat and we're trying to practice a little bit closer to the eleven o'clock game time that we'll have January 1st."

The Gamecocks, of course, are without safety Emanuel Cook, who failed to pass the six hours required to play in the Outback Bowl. Cook's absence puts South Carolina at an obvious disadvantage trying to stop Iowa's All-American running back Shonn Green, but Spurrier shrugged off the challenge.

"We won't make changes," he said. "The next guy gets in there. When one guy goes, the next guy steps up, so hopefully, Dion LeCorn, Darian Stewart and those guys will be ready to fill in and make tackles."

Spurrier announced another lineup change that most likely will have absolutely no impact on the game. With backup quarterback Tommy Beecher being shifted to the scout team after not wanting to play against Clemson, the Gamecocks have an opening for the emergency quarterback. When announcing the selection to the Outback Bowl, Spurrier said wide receiver Kenny McKinley would be the emergency quarterback. Wednesday, he changed his mind and said walk-on quarterback Zac Brindise would be the emergency quarterback. Having to turn to Brindise would certainly not be ideal (though neither would McKinley), but the only other quarterbacks on the roster are redshirt freshmen Aramis Hillary and Reid McCollum, and the coaches would not burn either's redshirt in a bowl game. However, McCollum has been working with Spurrier in practice, and is making some progress.

"Reid McCollum's been getting a little extra work over there with us," Spurrier said. "He's capable of making all the throws, but he's a long way off. We'll get him going in the spring and see what he can do."

When David Reaves left to join Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee, Shane Beamer was assigned to take over Reaves' role as recruiting coordinator. Spurrier, and the other coaches, cannot comment on recruiting specifics, but he said that after a little more than two weeks, Beamer is thriving in his new role.

"He's doing a super job," said Spurrier. "He's done that before, I think he did it at Mississippi State, so he is experienced in that field and has been doing a super job at it."

Reaves made waves following his departure when he engaged in what is typically called "negative recruiting." Reaves sought to turn some Gamecock commitments to the Vols by bad-mouthing Carolina. Spurrier emphasized that he and Beamer refuse to engage in negative recruiting.

"We believe that schools that use negative recruiting don't have much good to say about their own school. We try to sell the positives of the University of South Carolina," he said. "The American Football Coaches' Association talks about not to do [negative recruiting]. You can never stop it completely, but we do not adhere to that. I do not at all want our coaches doing that so we try to sell the University of South Carolina."


Life is good for McKinley

Wide receiver Kenny McKinley has a lot to be excited about these days. He owns almost every receiving record at Carolina. He gets to play one last time as a Gamecock on New Year's Day. He will get to showcase his talents for the NFL in the Senior Bowl. And last, but certainly not least, he became a father to a son, Keon Lathan, on December 12.

"It was a blessing," McKinley beamed. "When you see something of yours, it brought a smile to my face. Now I know that I'm in charge of somebody else's life, and what I do affects my son."

McKinley came to Carolina as an afterthought in Spurrier's first recruiting class. That group was headlined by wide receivers like O.J. Murdock (never made an impact before transferring), Carlos Thomas (four-year player at cornerback), Jared Cook (now a tight end), and Freddie Brown (a role player at wide receiver). McKinley was a high school quarterback learning a new position.

"When I first got here, I was 165 pounds, so I was already way smaller than everybody else, and I had never played receiver before. I knew it was going to be a difficult transition, but I never thought it would be as it is today," he recalled. "Playing quarterback, I never thought I would have [accomplished] that here. I just wanted to come in and play and be a good solid player. Hard work and listening to coaches and older guys got me where I am today. I love South Carolina and I'm going to miss everything."

McKinley singled out Sidney Rice, Syvelle Newton, and wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr., as the people who contributed the most to his growth as a receiver. McKinley has often referred to Rice as the most talented receiver he has played with, and Newton also made the transition from a high school quarterback to a college wide receiver. Unlike Rice, however, McKinley turned down a chance to declare for the NFL draft and returned for his senior season. Even though he did not have the season he hoped for, he does not regret coming back.

"I got hurt this year, but everything has really been great with all the fans, my teammates," said McKinley. "I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world."

That commitment to Carolina also contrasts with junior safety Emanuel Cook. Cook apparently has decided to declare for the NFL draft, and failed to complete his six hours of classes. Consequently, Cook is ineligible for the Outback Bowl. McKinley had little to say about Cook losing his eligibility.

"I don't really want to speak on it," he said. "That's a personal problem and I don't really know too much. One of the other guys is going to have to step up. I wish the best for E. Cook whatever he is going to do."


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