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Offense clicks in scrimmage

03/21/09 Columbia, SC photo by Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com---USC's Brandan Davis takes part in a pass catching drill during practice, Saturday, March 21, 2009.
03/21/09 Columbia, SC photo by Gerry Melendez/gmelendez@thestate.com---USC's Brandan Davis takes part in a pass catching drill during practice, Saturday, March 21, 2009. The State

Steve Spurrier spent the latter part of Saturday’s scrimmage experimenting with making one of his best defensive players a two-way threat.

The South Carolina offense spent the first part of the scrimmage showing Spurrier it might not need the help.

The Gamecocks offense had a good showing at Williams-Brice Stadium against a defense that was without some of its starters. But given the offense’s struggles the past few seasons — even in scrimmages like these — Spurrier was pleased.

“The offense actually did a little better than they normally do in these scrimmages, so that was encouraging for them,” he said.

There were a number of big plays, the last coming from defensive end Cliff Matthews — while playing offense. Matthews, who will be a junior next season, lined up at tight end and caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Zac Brindise, doing most of the work after the catch.

It was a sign that Spurrier was serious about using the 6-foot-4, 259-pound Matthews on offense, as well as other defensive players.

“I’ve already told the defensive coaches we want to get the best guys on the field, and he’s one of the best athletes on the entire team and we’ve got to play him more,” Spurrier said of Matthews.

“We’ve got to utilize all of our players, I think, better. Sometimes we’ve got guys out there that shouldn’t be out there, and we’ve got some of our most conscientious guys over there standing by me.”

There was a bit of trickery involved on Matthews’ catch. He was wearing his white defensive jersey, which might have confused a few defenders.

“When he threw the pass, I didn’t know what was going on. I was like, He just threw it straight to the defensive player!” receiver Moe Brown said, laughing. “He’s just a phenomenal athlete. If you can put him on the field and he can be productive on offense, by all means, let him go.”

Brown had his own shining moment, hauling in a 43-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Garcia on the second drive.

Tailback Brian Maddox made the opening drive a quick one, scoring on a 60-yard touchdown run on the scrimmage’s second play.

The only hiccup for the offense was a fumble by freshman tailback Jarvis Giles, after he was hit hard from behind by Devin Taylor.

Brown said it was “great” to see the offense going up and down the field.

“I said a couple times, we’ve got some backs,” Brown said. “We haven’t seen any runs like that. The offensive line was blocking great. The quarterbacks were making their reads. It was a pretty efficient day.

“Like coach said, the defense wasn’t at 100 percent, but to see us come out here and execute at a decent level was encouraging.”

Garcia played two drives, looking good on both of them. He opened the scrimmage with a receiver screen to Jason Barnes, who took it for a first down.

“Stephen did some good things,” Spurrier said. “He’s capable of really playing well. He’s got to learn the game. But he’s trying to, so that’s encouraging.”

Redshirt freshman Reid McCollum played the third drive, and Spurrier said afterward that McCollum would be second-string if the season started today.

Aramis Hillary, another redshirt freshman, and walk-on Brindise played the rest of the scrimmage at quarterback.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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