DBs Thomas, Newton return to practice

Former receivers Culliver, Barnes make transition to defense at safety position

jperson@thestate.com March 25, 2008 

USC defensive backs Carlos Thomas and Mike Newton practiced for the first time Monday after being suspended.

Thomas, a senior cornerback, was sidelined nearly three weeks for violating team rules. Sources said Thomas was loud and boisterous and used profanities in the presence of an administrator in the dining hall.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said the 5-foot-11, 197-pound Thomas, who has 20 career starts, has displayed an improved attitude — and physique.

“Carlos is a little bigger than he used to be,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, he will play more physical and play a lot better this coming season.”

Newton, a walk-on from Irmo, was charged with disorderly conduct March 15 at the St. Pat’s festival in Five Points.

On the move. Chris Culliver ran the 40-yard dash this month in 4.34 seconds, although Spurrier jokingly told the sophomore he looked like a “4.8 guy” running routes. Culliver, who played sparingly on offense in high school, now can concentrate on defending route-runners after moving to safety.

“I just tried to make something happen, showcase my talent. I know it was going to be a hard transition when I came here,” said Culliver, who did not catch a pass last fall.

Columbia native Mark Barnes also has switched from receiver to safety. Barnes caught two passes for 12 yards and a touchdown last year against S.C. State in his most extensive action.

Extra points. Center Garrett Anderson was withheld from contact drills after injuring his back lifting weights. ... Sophomore tight end Weslye Saunders made three nice catches during 7-on-7 drills, highlighting a strong showing by the tight ends during the Gamecocks’ first full-pads practice.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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