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Sherman hopes to break one in bowl

USC kick returner Bryce Sherman recently beat Chris Culliver in a post-practice, 20-yard race.

Next the former sprinter for the Gamecocks' track team will try to beat Connecticut's coverage team to the end zone in the Jan. 2 Papajohns.com Bowl.

It has been seven years since a USC player returned a kickoff for a touchdown, dating to Matthew Thomas' 95-yard score at Virginia on Sept. 7, 2002.

But in the diminutive Sherman, who took over the return duties from Culliver after the Tennessee game, coaches believe they have a sprinter's chance to go the distance every kick. Special teams coordinator Shane Beamer said the 5-foot-6, 155-pound Sherman nearly broke one against Clemson.

"He'll hit it full speed. There's no half speed with him. He gets it and he goes," Beamer said Friday. "He's at a different speed than a lot of those guys. For a smaller guy, he's got a lot of toughness. He has no fear. He's due."

Sherman, a walk-on from North Carolina averaging 21.5 yards per return with a long of 35, sustained a concussion during a scrimmage Thursday. He said he should be cleared in a couple of days.

And though he holds the title of "Fastest Gamecock in Pads," Sherman downplayed his victory against Culliver.

"He was pretty fast. He had a bad start, though," said Sherman, who was 20th in the 60-meter dash last winter at the SEC indoor track meet. "He was coming up on me, though."

Tough blow for Baker

Sherman was not the only reserve tailback injured Thursday.

Trainers believe Eric Baker tore ligaments in his left knee and likely will undergo surgery in a couple of weeks, according to USC coach Steve Spurrier.

"That's one of the first injuries we've ever had scrimmaging in a long time. It's unfortunate the way it happened," Spurrier said. "Eric's doing well. He's got a wonderful attitude, and hopefully his surgery will be very successful."

Baker, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., was the Gamecocks' third-leading rusher in 2008 when he finished with 182 yards on 46 carries. But Baker spent most of this season on the scout team.

In seven games, Baker had two rushes for 22 yards. Baker declined comment Friday morning as he left Williams-Brice Stadium on crutches.

Extra points

Spurrier's flight to Spartanburg for the Shrine Bowl luncheon Friday was canceled due to heavy rains. The Gamecocks practiced at their indoor facility for about an hour and a half. ... Spurrier and two assistant coaches flew to Philadelphia on Thursday evening to visit with defensive line prospect Sharrif Floyd, who also met with Florida's Urban Meyer on Thursday.

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