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Critique will color Culliver's NFL choice

USC's Chris Culliver runs through drills during practice after making a reception.
USC's Chris Culliver runs through drills during practice after making a reception.

Rather than focus on the interceptions he dropped this season, USC free safety Chris Culliver is looking to the future.

His immediate future includes another year in Columbia.

Echoing the words of the Gamecocks' other high-profile juniors, Culliver said Wednesday he will ask for an evaluation from the NFL's underclassmen advisory committee, but plans to return for his senior season.

Reminded that others - including cornerback Captain Munnerlyn last year - said the same thing and turned pro, Culliver said: "People say that every year. But I talked to coach (Steve) Spurrier and everything's cool."

Though Culliver is USC's third-leading tackler with 58 stops, it has not been a great year for the Garner, N.C., native. Culliver has no interceptions after picking off three passes last year, and was benched for the Arkansas game after injuring his shoulder against Tennessee and walking off the practice field two nights later.

"I dropped about eight picks. I wish I could've had those back," Culliver said. "But you can't really look back at the past and harp on that. You gotta keep looking forward."

Culliver said he would enter the draft if he is projected as a first-round pick. What about a second-round projection?

"We'll think about that," he said.

Spurrier tells players that statistics show they are better off returning if they are not projected in the first two rounds.

"They know the deal. It's a choice. If they want to come out and be drafted in the seventh round or not drafted at all, that's their choice," said Spurrier, referring to Munnerlyn and Emanuel Cook. "If they want to play for South Carolina another year and they're happy to be here, then we want 'em here. It's not real difficult. We'll see how it all plays out."

Richardson out. Right tackle Quintin Richardson, who started against Clemson and had five total starts, will miss the Papajohns.com Bowl against Connecticut after undergoing shoulder surgery. Coaches hope he will be back for spring practice.

"He was hurting all year a little bit. I don't know when he originally hurt it," Spurrier said. "But he had trouble getting his hand up on the right side. He needed it, so we decided to go ahead and do it."

Coach Boyd. During his final season at USC, Andy Boyd generally was described as the Gamecocks' "sixth-year tight end." Now Boyd, in his second year as a graduate assistant, has a different title: interim offensive line coach.

Boyd took over the line when Eric Wolford left to become Youngstown State's coach following one season at USC. The 26-year-old Boyd worked with Wolford this season and said little will change in the line's practice routine.

"I hung out with coach Wolford all year learning the offense, doing everything I could do and helping out with guys, even during practice," said Boyd, who hopes to stay in coaching full-time.

Expanded role? After his successful stint at quarterback in the WildCock package against Clemson, freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore lined up in the shotgun Wednesday and threw some nice passes, according to Spurrier.

"He's a natural back there," Spurrier said. "I love watching him play."

Extra points. Tailback Kenny Miles, who sustained a concussion against Clemson, has been cleared to play against UConn. ... Spurrier believes everyone should be academically eligible for the bowl. ...

Qua Gilchrist, a junior college linebacker from Abbeville, signed with USC on Wednesday. Gilchrist, who had 61 tackles this season at Butler (Kans.) Community College, has three years of eligibility left. ...

Spurrier said offensive lineman Terrence Campbell, who missed most of the season with a neck injury, is doubtful to play in 2010, his final season of eligibility.

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