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Practice report: McKinley could play after all

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A few days ago, Steve Spurrier was talking about a medical redshirt for Kenny McKinley.

Now it appears USC’s All-SEC receiver could play Saturday at Mississippi.

Was it a miraculous recovery or did McKinley view Spurrier’s redshirt comments as a message to get back on the field?

It’s hard to know because McKinley has declined interview requests the past several weeks while rehabbing his pulled right hamstring. Either way, the Gamecocks are glad to have their go-to guy back.

“He’s looking all right out there,” said junior receiver Chris Hail, who estimated McKinley’s hamstring at 90 percent. “It’s killing him (not to play). But he’s making a good recovery, so he’ll be back.”

McKinley practiced for the second straight day Wednesday, but remains limited. “Kenny was running around decently. He’s expected to play some. We’ll see much as he goes. But he’ll suit up and go play,” Spurrier said. “He’s cutting OK. He didn’t do a lot. But what he did, he was OK.”

McKinley, who needs eight catches and 299 receiving yards to pass Sterling Sharpe as the Gamecocks’ all-time leader in both categories, has not played since the first quarter at Vanderbilt on Sept. 4. McKinley had offseason surgery on his big toe, but this is the first time he has been sidelined for games due to injury.

“He’s got to be full-go before he’ll be real valuable. We don’t need any decoys out there,” said Spurrier, whose downfield passing attack has struggled in McKinley’s absence.

“We’re not gonna blame our problems on Kenny not being there,” Spurrier added. “We blame our problems on a little bit of all of us. We’re trying to work our way out of it.”

Stock rising

Hail, who moved from defensive back last week, has been working with the second team behind McKinley. The Georgia native, who caught three passes against Auburn in 2006, believes receiver is his best position.

Stock falling

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will be held out at least the first play at Ole Miss for missing a weightlifting session and special teams meeting recently. But coaches say Munnerlyn’s play also has been spotty.

Injury report

Tight end Larry Freeman missed practice after undergoing a root canal, but will play Saturday. Freshman quarterback Reid McCollum, who is redshirting, is out with mononucleosis.

Extra points

Players stayed after practice for extra conditioning as punishment for their mental errors against Alabama-Birmingham. … Spurrier has long been known for his trick plays, but has yet to call one this year. He said the Gamecocks have worked on a few, but have not been in the right situation to use one. ... In Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference, Spurrier said both Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia would play against the Rebels. Spurrier said Smelley takes better care of the ball than Garcia, whom Spurrier said could be “helter skelter” in the pocket. Garcia rushed for a game-high 86 yards against UAB on 18 carries, more than half of which came on scrambles. Spurrier wants Garcia to stay in the pocket longer on certain passing plays.

Quote of the day

“It’s important because this is a stretch of all good teams now. Not to say the last two were not, but they’re not SEC teams. We’re all SEC and Clemson from here on out, so every game’s a biggie,” – Spurrier.

Scouting report

Despite missing most of preseason drills and the first three games following foot surgery, Ole Miss DE Greg Hardy leads his team with 2.5 sacks and also has 3.5 tackles for loss. But Spurrier has no plans to keep a back in to help block the 6-4, 265-pounder.

Previewing USC vs. Ole Miss

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