Running game highlights Sunday scrimmage

The Gamecocks scrimmaged on Sunday at Williams-Brice Stadium, and the team was able to get nearly 100 full contact plays in during the two and a half hour scrimmage under a perfect day for football in Columbia. Several players emerged from the pack with solid performances, while others seemed to continue their preseason struggles. Read inside for an in-depth report on Sunday's scrimmage.

"The most encouraging part of the scrimmage was that we were able to run the ball," Coach Steve Spurrier said as he began his post-scrimmage talk with the media. "We actually ran the ball decently out here today, which he have not done too well out here on the practice field."

Spurrier said he attributes the success the Gamecocks had running the ball to both the running backs as well as the offensive line's play on the afternoon.

"The (running) backs hit the holes correctly and made some nice runs in there. The (offensive) line did a good job blocking (on those plays)," he noted. "We only had about four running plays instead of fifteen different ones. We ran the same (play) over and over again, and (the running backs) seemed to bounce out of there. So that was, obviously, helpful."

At times it seemed that the Gamecocks' talented running backs took matters into their own hands, gaining yards on plays that seemed to have less than adequate blocking from the offensive line.

"That's part of being a good running back," added offensive line coach/running game coordinator Eric Wolford. "A good running back will always make your offensive line look better than it is, and that's something that you've got to have. You've got to have a great running back (in the backfield), because every decision that he makes either makes you look good or bad."

Early on, starter Brian Maddox looked to be on his way to a good day, but was slowed down after he bruised his shoulder during a play on the fourth series. "Maddox got dinged up early and he looked like he was getting off to a good start," Wolford stated.

After netting 50 yards on 8 rushing attempts, Maddox sat out for the remainder of practice following the minor injury. With a reputation for being tough, fellow running back Kenny Miles proclaimed his belief that the injury shouldn't hamper the Anderson, SC native for very long at all.

"It's just a bruise," Miles said. "You know Brian (Maddox), he's a powerful guy, he'll be back real soon."

With Maddox banged up, the younger Gamecock running backs were able to gain some valuable reps during the scrimmage.

"Those (other running backs) needed some reps too, so it kind of worked out," Wolford said.

The Gamecocks' rushing attack was led by Miles, who displayed a good combination of both speed and strength throughout the scrimmage. The redshirt freshman from Lawrenceville, Georgia rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

"I felt real good out there," Miles said after the scrimmage. "It's real hot out here today, but it did feel good out there with the offense scrimmaging in the stadium. Overall I felt comfortable out there, but you've always got to try and get better."

Highly touted true freshman Jarvis Giles is another young running back who saw his carries increase after Maddox went out. Although Giles compiled only 39 yards, including a touchdown, in Sunday's scrimmage, he displayed great vision carrying the ball on several occasions, bouncing around in between his blockers before finding open room to run. On one particular play, Giles took the ball and used his playmaking ability to elude three defenders on his way to an impressive 20 yard gain.

Along with Miles and Giles, walk-on speedster Bryce Sherman's number was called perhaps more often than the youngster is used to. Outside of his one fumble, Sherman enjoyed a solid afternoon, using his outstanding speed to rush for 51 yards and one touchdown.

The Gamecocks should have many reliable options this season when it comes to who they decide to hand the ball off to. Spurrier claims that neither Maddox, Giles, nor Miles has yet to grasp top running back honors and that they all will see significant playing time this season.

"We've got a top three," he said of the running back personnel. "There's not a huge difference between all of those guys. (Running backs coach) Jay Graham and I agree that they're all going to be ready to play. We're going to let them all play until one separates himself from the (other running backs)."

Miles agreed with his coach, saying that he and the other running backs will continue their rigorous competition to be the Gamecocks' top back and that whoever is chosen will have rightfully earned the spot.

"It's just a battle (to be the top running back). Every one of us brings something different to the table, so as of right now I think you'll get to see a little bit of everybody during the season," Miles stated. "But if someone does get the permanent starting position, they will definitely have earned it."

Wolford says he's confident that each of the running backs has the talent to get the job done, and that he's excited to watch whichever back's number is called.

"Those (running backs) are all good players. I like it when the ball is in their hands," he said with a big smile on his face.

McCollum firms up spot as Number 2 QB, Garcia bounces back from slow start

Quarterback Reid McCollum's performance in the scrimmage seemed to further separate himself from Aramis Hillary in the competition to be the second string quarterback. Hillary threw a touchdown pass on one of his four pass attempts on the afternoon, but had some trouble holding on to the ball. Hillary fumbled the ball on a snap from the center, and was partly responsible for a fumble on an option play. McCollum had substantially more success in the passing game by throwing for 166 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

"Reid McCollum threw some good balls here and there," Coach Steve Spurrier said following the scrimmage. "He (completed) some long balls and threw some good (passes). Reid (McCollum) had four or five really nice throws out there today."

McCollum said he felt pretty good about his performance on the afternoon, when talking to the media after the scrimmage.

"I felt like I made some good plays today. The (offensive line) gave me some time, the receivers got open, and I felt like I made some good throws," he said.

Perhaps one of the most surprising stats of the scrimmage was the fact that McCollum rushed six times for 22 yards, the majority of which were designed quarterback runs.

"I'm not the running type of quarterback, but yeah we had a couple of designed runs (for me) in there."

McCollum explained that calling plays for him to keep the ball was aimed at keeping the defense on their toes about who the potential ball carriers are.

"We were just trying to mix it up in there, it's hard to defend if you don't know whether the quarterback or the running back is going to run it. We had a few misdirection zone-reads, so when it's there I've just got to tuck (the football) and take off."

"Reid (McCollum) is a pure drop-back passer, we've said that from day one," Spurrier reaffirmed before giving McCollum's running ability some praise. "He can run. He can run in that spread offense. He can (fake the handoff), keep it himself and run for eight or ten yards."

Starter Stephen Garcia got off to a slow start, overthrowing open receivers on 3 of his first 4 pass attempts, one of which was an errant five-yard pass that was intercepted by cornerback Cedrick Snead. Garcia eventually pulled it together and finished the practice on a better note.

"I wish Stephen (Garcia) had played a little bit better, he wasn't particularly sharp early in the scrimmage," said Spurrier of Garcia as he shrugged his shoulders. "But anyway, he hit Weslye Saunders with a pretty pass on crossing route a little later. That was probably his best play of the day."

Despite his struggles during the early portion of the scrimmage, Spurrier confirmed that Garcia is still the Gamecocks' number one quarterback.

"(Garcia) is our quarterback, but Reid (McCollum) needs to be ready to play. (McCollum) is definitely our second (quarterback) right now."

Making a dedicated effort to learn more about the game is something that Spurrier believes both Garcia and McCollum need to do in order to improve their play.

"If (McCollum) ever gets his mind really, really straight then he can be really good. It's just a matter for both (McCollum) and Stephen (Garcia) of making that total commitment, and to learn everything about football," said Spurrier before strongly declaring, "These guys have the ability."

In the spring, McCollum spoke with the media and said that he honestly wouldn't be ready to lead the Gamecock offense at that point in time. However, with many hours of practicing and learning the offense under his belt, McCollum now says that he's ready to take the reins of the offense if called upon.

"We're two weeks away from the season, I really don't have a choice (about whether or not he'll be ready). I've been working hard to get to where I am now, and if it comes down to me going in there (to play quarterback) in two weeks then that's just what I'm going to have to do. I think I can go out there and make plays, we'll just have to see what happens."


- Senior linebacker Eric Norwood sprained his wrist and will be limited for a week or two, according to Spurrier. "He should be fine in a couple of weeks," Spurrier noted.

- Junior Heath Batchelor worked with the first team offense at right guard, ahead of T.J. Johnson. Wolford said following the scrimmage that Batchelor is currently edging Johnson out.

- Spurrier joked that he wished fans were in attendance to see freshman wide receiver Alshon Jeffery juke several defenders on a long touchdown run. "Alshon made a beautiful play. He caught one down the sideline, juked about three or four guys, and went in the endzone," Spurrier said.

- There were a few bad snaps, which Spurrier expressed his displeasure with following the scrimmage. "There were some miscues. We had a snap over a quarterback's head on first down that killed a drive. We fumbled a snap from under center on first down and killed another drive. We weren't very smart out here at times," he said.

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