Special teams add new name to kicking game

jperson@thestate.com March 30, 2008 

One name has dominated discussions of South Carolina’s kicking game the past two years: do-it-all Ryan Succop.

But another player has emerged who could take some of the strain off Succop’s leg this fall, even if it took USC coach Steve Spurrier a while to get his name right.

Spencer Lanning, a walk-on from Rock Hill, boomed several good punts Saturday during the Gamecocks’ first spring scrimmage. Spurrier, who at times has referred to the punter as “Lanning Spencer,” said Lanning might have kicked his way into the 2008 conversation.

“He’s got a chance to be our punter,” Spurrier said. “He punted well. In fact, I thought in pre-practice he was our best punter and he hit a couple good ones during the practice.”

Lanning, a redshirt sophomore, made his only career extra-point attempt last year but has yet to punt in a game.

But when new special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski was hired during the offseason, he said he hoped to find someone to help Succop, who handled the punting, placekicking and kickoff duties in 2006 and ‘07. Succop, a rising senior, was 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 51 yards in the scrimmage.

“Succop’s got a killer leg. He’s qualified to do all three,” Lanning said. “But coach Ray said he wanted to divide it up and give a little more time to Succop to concentrate on field goal kicking. I’m glad I got the opportunity.”

Lanning helped his cause Saturday with punts covering 48 and 42 yards. It was not a perfect day: Receiver Larry Freeman blocked another of Lanning’s punts.

That did not sit well with Rychleski, who never had a punt blocked during seven years running Maryland’s special teams.

“Like I told Spence after practice, no matter what, I don’t care if we don’t block a soul, we can’t have a punt blocked,” Rychleski said. “But I was very, very encouraged. I’m not ready to give him the job, yet. But that would help the team in all phases.”

It also would help Lanning’s name recognition.

“(Spurrier) usually refers to me as ‘Lanning’ now, which I don’t mind,” he said. “He can call me whatever he wants. As long as I’m on the field, right?”

Fair to middlin’. Chris Smelley and Spurrier used the same adjective to describe the quarterback play: OK.

Smelley completed 15 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, while Tommy Beecher was 8-of-20 for 91 yards and a score. Neither threw an interception. On the other hand, neither led a touchdown drive during the main portion of the scrimmage.

“I made some real nice passes, but at times I just wasn’t putting it right where I wanted to,” Smelley said.

“It was nothing real spectacular,” Spurrier said. “But they did OK.”

Extra points. Jamon Meredith, a three-year starter at tackle, played sparingly because Spurrier wants other players to get ready for the start of next season, when Meredith will sit the first two games in return for the NCAA restoring his redshirt year. ...

Add tailback Mike Davis (hamstring) to the list of USC regulars sidelined this spring. The rising senior could miss up to two weeks, Spurrier said. ...

Defensive end Jordin Lindsey will line up at tackle during passing situations so the Gamecocks get their best pass-rushers on the field, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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