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Practice report: Culliver apologizes for fighting

University of South Carolina No. 17 Chris Culliver delivers a hit to  University of Arkansas No. Greg Childs in the second half at Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday, November 8, 2008. USC won 34-21.
University of South Carolina No. 17 Chris Culliver delivers a hit to University of Arkansas No. Greg Childs in the second half at Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday, November 8, 2008. USC won 34-21. Erk Campos

News of the day

Two days after getting ejected from the Arkansas game for fighting, USC free safety Chris Culliver faced the music.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier brought Culliver over to a group of reporters after Monday’s practice, and said the sophomore had a statement.

“First and foremost, I just want to apologize to my teammates, to my fans, to everybody that’s watching South Carolina University,” Culliver said.

“It was a careless mistake on my behalf. I shouldn’t have retaliated that way. I just wish I could do it all over again. I mean, I’m sorry, really.”

Spurrier then patted Culliver on the shoulder and let him go.

“All right, that’s good enough, Chris,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully this’ll be behind us. It was an embarrassing situation. I couldn’t believe he was throwing a punch to a helmet. You can’t do that anymore. We don’t do that, and it shouldn’t happen again.”

Culliver took a swing at an Arkansas player during a scrum that followed Emanuel Cook’s recovery of the Razorbacks’ onside kick attempt with 1:18 remaining. Under NCAA rules, Culliver is suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game at No. 3 Florida.

Akeem Auguste, a freshman from Hollywood, Fla., will make his first career start in place of Culliver.

“Basically, it put me in the starting lineup. But I’ve been playing all season,” said Auguste, who had a season-high six tackles against Arkansas. “I’m just starting the game off this time.”

Auguste tweaked his left hamstring against the Razorbacks, but practiced Monday and said he was all right.

Stock rising

Jordin Lindsey was named the SEC’s defensive lineman of the week after the fifth-year end had a pair of solo tackles and an interception in the win against Arkansas. With the Razorbacks trailing 20-14 and driving in the third quarter, Lindsey picked off a Casey Dick pass and returned it 40 yards to the Arkansas 15-yard line. USC scored two plays later.

Stock falling

As strong as the special teams have been under first-year coordinator Ray Rychleski, the former Maryland assistant has yet to get the punt return team going. USC is last in the SEC and 105th among 119 teams nationally with an average return of 5.8 yards. Florida leads the conference at 18.7 yards per return.

Injury report

Freshman quarterback Aramis Hillary, who is redshirting, recently underwent what Spurrier called “minor” knee surgery.

Quote of the day

“Not at all. I thought it’d be more. I’m telling you now, this team — Brandon James is the Devin Hester of college football. (Tim) Tebow, you’ve got the Heisman (winner). Percy Harvin. This kid (Jeffrey) Demps, he might be as good as all of them ... I was watching. I said, ‘Who are these guys?’ ”

— Rychleski when asked whether he was surprised that USC is a 21-point underdog.

Extra point

Ryan Succop wants to leave Florida Field in a better mood than he did two years ago. The Gators blocked three of Succop’s kicks in their 17-16 win, including a 48-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

“That was definitely a tough moment for us and for me, especially,” Succop said. “It’d be just a heck of a way to go out, being a senior in my last year, to go down there and beat Florida in the Swamp.”

Scouting report

Gators offensive lineman Carl Johnson is questionable after injuring his knee against Vanderbilt, according to wire reports. Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, has played in nine games this season with five starts.

Joseph Person and Seth Emerson

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