Gamecocks have physical Friday workout

The Gamecocks had a delayed, but heavy practice on Friday afternoon. Originally scheduled for 10:15, practice was pushed back to 2:00, and the team spent the final twenty minutes scrimmaging at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"We let the guys scrimmage a little bit, some of the younger guys, here in the stadium," said Steve Spurrier. "Stephen Garcia got a few throws, got some pass rush against him, so hopefully it will help him come bowl game."

Spurrier is also hoping Garcia was able to glean a little something from former quarterback Blake Mitchell. Along with former center Web Brown, Mitchell visited practice Friday to watch South Carolina prepare for the Outback Bowl.

"Blake was in town and came by to see everybody," Spurrier said. "Blake was the Most Valuable Player in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis a couple of years ago. Maybe that will wear off on some of our guys here."

Garcia could also draw some inspiration from visiting his old stomping grounds. While in Tampa, the Gamecocks will be practicing at Garcia's alma mater Jefferson High. Carolina was originally scheduled to practice at South Florida, but Spurrier preferred to work out closer to the team hotel. There was concern about whether the weight room at Jefferson is adequate, but Spurrier thinks it will be fine, especially considering the distance.

"We're going to go right there," he said. "It saves about a 20 minute bus ride, and every thing is right there for us. They have a nice field."

Several players did not participate in practice, but all the coaches were present. That included strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith, who has been offered the same position at Tennessee. On Friday, neither Smith nor Spurrier was ready to announce whether he would accept the offer.

"I'll let you know Monday what his status is, as well as anybody else's," Spurrier said.

Among the missing players were Akeem Auguste (hamstring) and Eric Norwood. Norwood sat out the day with an illness.

"He had a stomach virus or something like that, but he'll be fine," Spurrier said.

Also missing practice were the Gamecocks' academic casualties. In addition to Emanuel Cook, who has already been announced as ineligible, Kyle Nunn, Dustin Lindsey, and Spencer Lanning. Lindsey and Lanning are appealing their grades, and hope to be reinstated. Nunn has no such luck.

"Kyle Nunn is not going to be able to make the bowl trip," said Spurrier. Hopefully he'll get his act together a little bit better and be ready in January."

When a reporter began to ask Spurrier why the Gamecocks have so much trouble with players staying academically eligible, Spurrier cut him off. He pointed out that on the entire football team, nearly 30 players averaged a 3.0 or better, and only a few are in trouble.

"It's not that many," he said. "We have had about three that had some issues. We've had a bunch of guys that did very well. Ladi Ajiboye had over a 3.0, but they don't get any publicity. Go over and talk to Ladi and ask him how he worked his butt off."

Rychleski discusses Lanning's academic case

Lanning's situation is more complicated than the other players. A student with a 2.9 GPA, Lanning wanted to major in Business. USC requires all juniors to declare a major, but the business school requires a 3.0 GPA, so Lanning was forced declare another major. Lanning declared Economics and took two business classes and two economics classes.

Lanning made two Bs, a C, and a D. However the D was in one of his economics classes so it did not count toward his major. NCAA rules mandate that a player must carry six hours in his major during the first semester he declares that major. Since the D did not count towards his major, Lanning is only credited with three hours toward his major.

"It's as I call it, ‘a perfect storm,' said Lanning's position coach, Ray Rychleski. "I don't want to say Spencer's getting screwed, but he's very unlucky and it's not his fault. It's an NCAA rule that I definitely don't agree with."

If Lanning had decalared an economics major prior to this semester, he would have been eligible even with the D. Lanning is appealing the ruling, both to the NCAA and to USC. He is hoping to have an exception granted, or change his major from economics.

"If the NCAA has compassion" it will grant Lanning a waiver, Rychleski said. "[If] he becomes ineligible, and he doesn't get any bowl gifts, any bowl money, he doesn't get anything for practicing, and that's what's really tough and hard on him. And he's a 2.9 student going into the semester!"

Rychleski was insistant that Lanning not be grouped with Carolina's other academic casualties. He believes Lanning is a good student who fell victim to bureaucratic red tape, not his own poor habits.

"He's not lumped in with those guys. He's a different situation," Rychleski said. "My heart goes out to Spencer and I think it's an injustice to him, but life isn't fair to all of us sometimes."

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