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Sunday practice report: Strained foot keeping Stewart out of practice

News of the day: Starting safety Darian Stewart will miss the next week of practice with a strained left foot. The junior was walking on crutches and wearing a walking boot on Sunday, but he said it looked worse than it really is. The X-rays came back negative.

“It’s just some tissue that should be healed in a few days,” said Stewart, who expects to return to the field Saturday, when the team starts game-planning for the Aug. 28 opener against North Carolina State.

In Stewart’s absence, senior Larry Freeman was seeing time with the first-team defense in the 4-2-5 set-up. Freeman came to USC as a receiver last year, then was shifted to linebacker, but he appears to be in the rotation when the Gamecocks need a fast player closer to the line of scrimmage.

Stock rising: On offense, running back Taylor Rank saw time with the first-team offense in Sunday’s practice. Quarterback Reid McCollum saw his snaps increase. On defense, linebackers Rodney Paulk and Marvin Sapp received praise from coach Steve Spurrier for their performance in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Stock falling: The health of the key defensive players. Team doctor Jeff Guy came back Sunday from the Olympics and has a busy plate. There’s Stewart’s injury, and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is still slowed by an ankle injury. Brinkley practiced Sunday, but admitted that he’s not 100 percent.

“Hopefully it’s nothing serious,” Brinkley said.

Quote of the day: “Taylor Rank was working the first offense. So he’s risen in the ranks.” - Spurrier, who then smiled and nudged a reporter to make sure his pun was noticed. “I wasn’t even thinking about it,” he added.

Injury update: Offensive tackle Jarriel King (hamstring) practiced full speed after missing the scrimmage. Tailback Mike Davis was out with a stomach virus. Guard Kevin Young, who hasn’t practiced in a few days, has been excused for a few days because of family reasons, according to Spurrier.

Extra points: The plan is still to redshirt McCollum, a true freshman. But Spurrier likes what he’s seen out of the Summerville High School graduate: “Reid’s in the picture now. We let Reid come in here and throw a couple. We haven’t told him where everybody’s going, but if he knows where they’re at, he can hit them. He’s got a good throwing motion.”

Up next: The Gamecocks practice tonight at 7:30, then will hold their final scrimmage Tuesday night. Both are closed to the public.