Last year, the USC football team kept looking for a way to replace Sidney Rice. It never did.
The search for the next Kenny McKinley, however, seems to be going much better, and without the need to actually replace him until next year. In freshman C.C. Whitlock, the Gamecocks think they have a reliable, speedy pass-catcher on par with McKinley, their No. 1 receiver.
Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said last week that Whitlock was “the closest guy we’ve got to Kenny McKinley. He echoed that to Whitlock, saying the Chester High School product has quick feet and good hands like McKinley, and both make up for their height. (Whitlock is listed at 5-foot-10, two inches shorter than McKinley.)
“It’s always a great honor to be patterned behind someone that’s going to be drafted high next year,” Whitlock said.
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That said, he’s still not convinced his future is at receiver. His high school coach, Victor Floyd, told him this week that he could see Whitlock being moved back to defensive back as a junior.
For now, Whitlock knows his position, and has been told he will play this fall. He expects to be used on screens, reverses, and mid-range passes, with an occasional attempt to beat his man downfield.
“I got on the field as a freshman in high school, so I might as well do it here too,” he said.
Whither Meredith? Senior Jamon Meredith has to sit out the first two games of the season. What position he takes upon his return appears up for debate.
Meredith spent last season at left tackle, protecting the quarterback’s blind side. But offensive line coach John Hunt is open to moving him to the right spot, or even to guard, where Meredith got some reps Friday because of injuries.
“We try to play our top five people and if our top five people include three tackles, then one of them has got to move inside. You never know,” Hunt said.
Hunt indicated he may give Justin Sorensen a chance at left tackle, then keep him there, rather than shift him back for the third game once Meredith is eligible. Meredith has to sit because of an NCAA ruling that restored his redshirt freshman season.
“He’s been real good this spring, I’ve been moving from left to right, putting him at guard, plugging him in there,” Hunt said. “But we’ve got to get somebody ready for the first two games until he can come back, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Garcia back early? Coach Steve Spurrier said there is a chance suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia could come back before his scheduled return date of Aug. 15. But Spurrier declined to elaborate, adding that it was a university decision.
“We’ve already talked to Stephen, he knows what he has to do,” Spurrier said. “If he can fulfill his requirements, he’ll be back in August.”
Extra points. Safety Mark Barnes missed Friday’s practice to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Guards Heath Batchelor and T.C. Campbell were absent with “academic issues,” according to Spurrier. ...
The Gamecocks might not be able to scrimmage Monday night because of the weather, according to Spurrier. The coach did not say if the scrimmage would be made up. ...
Spurrier was on the 16th tee box Thursday at The Masters when Ian Poulter made a hole-in-one. The coach was asked if he had ever made an ace.
“Yeah, sure, haven’t you?” he replied.
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676. Staff writer Pat Obley contributed to this report.