Practice report: Smelley rolls with changes

October 30, 2008 

News of the day

The military helped Chris Smelley’s grandfather become a man.

Smelley has had three years of Camp Spurrier.

The Gamecocks’ quarterback has not played since being yanked in favor of Stephen Garcia near the end of the third quarter at Kentucky. It’s not the first time Smelley has been benched: USC coach Steve Spurrier replaced Smelley with Blake Mitchell last year at Tennessee and stuck with Mitchell the final three games.

Smelley said having thick skin is part of playing quarterback for Spurrier.

“That’s something my granddad was talking to me about. He said, ‘You know, when I grew up the Navy got me ready to be a man,’ ” Smelley said. “He goes, ‘You’re doing it a different way playing college football up there.’ ”

Smelley, a redshirt sophomore from Tuscaloosa, Ala., is 8-4 as a starter. His longest stint as a starter was the six-game stretch that ended when Garcia made his first career start against LSU.

“Time’s shown ever since I’ve been here everybody’s got to be ready to play,” he said. “You’ve got to constantly be prepared and you can’t take any time off if you’re not the No. 1 guy.”

Stock rising

USC ranks first in the SEC in total defense and seventh in total offense. Only twice has a Spurrier-coached team finished with a defense ranked higher than the offense – both times at Florida.

In ‘97, Florida ranked No. 1 in the SEC allowing 286.6 yards per game and No. 2 in offense at 461.9 ypg. The following year, Florida was second in defense (290.5 ypg) and fourth in offense (421.3 ypg).

Stock falling

Depth at guard. With Heath Batchelor suspended for at least another week and Jamon Meredith doubtful with a sprained left ankle, reserve tackle Hutch Eckerson has moved to guard and is backing up starters Lemuel Jeanpierre and Terrence Campbell.

Extra points

Linebacker Eric Norwood is one of twenty quarterfinalists for the Lott Trophy, a national defensive award that includes a character component. Norwood has 39 tackles and leads the Gamecocks with 5.5 tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries. …

Freshman defensive back C.C. Whitlock is one of five or six players on what Spurrier called the “academic reform team.” The group, which includes Batchelor and freshman defensive back Antonio Allen, goes to study hall during practice time.

Injury report

Tight end Jared Cook said “everything’s good” with his sprained right foot and he expects to play Saturday against Tennessee. Cook injured his foot at Mississippi and aggravated it during the open week.

Quote of the day

“You don’t need to talk to him. He doesn’t need it. He doesn’t need any publicity,” – Spurrier on Garcia, who has not been available to the media since the LSU game.

Scouting report

Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, a senior from Clio, has one sack but leads the Vols with nine tackles for loss. Ayers said he is confident Tennessee will begin a late-season push against his home-state school.

“We definitely feel like these next four games are games we can and should win,” Ayers said.

-- Joseph Person

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