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USC coaches hope extra practices bear fruit

South Carolina freshman tailback Jarvis Giles scores a touchdown in the third quarter during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, Saturday, September 19, 2009.
South Carolina freshman tailback Jarvis Giles scores a touchdown in the third quarter during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, Saturday, September 19, 2009.

When he was the coach at Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania, South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said making the Division III playoffs came with a bonus - and it had nothing to do with an extra paycheck.

"I thought that was always great," Mangus said. "It was another week of practice that we got that everybody else didn't get."

The Gamecocks are scheduled to practice 14 times prior to facing Connecticut in the Jan. 2 Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. - nearly the equivalent of the 15 practices the NCAA allows in the spring.

And while most of the bowl workouts will focus on the Huskies, Steve Spurrier and his staff also will use them to look at younger players who were either redshirted or played sparingly this season.

The third- and fourth-teamers scrimmaged twice this week. And though a couple of reserve tailbacks were injured Thursday when Eric Baker likely tore ligaments in his left knee and Bryce Sherman sustained a concussion, Spurrier plans a couple more scrimmages when the weather is nice.

"That's how you learn how to play," Spurrier said. "You've got to scrimmage a little bit."

A look at six players who could benefit from the bowl practices:

QB REID MCCOLLUM

With Stephen Garcia playing every significant snap, McCollum played in just two games - mop-up duty against Florida Atlantic and S.C. State. The redshirt freshman from Summerville completed 4 of 6 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.

While Garcia is entrenched as the starter, McCollum is a sprained ankle away from being under center. He needs as many reps as he can get in the event Garcia is injured.

RB JARVIS GILES

Considering how Giles' freshman season started, he likely never imagined he would be an afterthought for the bowl game. The Tampa, Fla., native rushed for 113 yards against Florida Atlantic and had 11 carries for 74 yards against S.C. State.

But the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Giles had just 13 carries in the last seven games as coaches went with the tandem of Kenny Miles and Brian Maddox. Giles needs to get stronger this winter and have a strong spring, particularly if USC lands Byrnes tailback Marcus Lattimore.

WRS DEMARIO BENNETT AND DEANGELO SMITH

The freshman wideouts looked good in August but could not crack a crowded receiving corps and spent the fall on the scout team. But with slot receiver Moe Brown playing his final game in Birmingham, the Gamecocks will be looking for at least one receiver for 2010. Bennett and Smith should challenge for that spot.

LB QUIN SMITH

Smith played in 10 games this year as a freshman, mostly on special teams. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Smith needs to get bigger. But he has the athleticism and tackling skills to compete for Eric Norwood's outside linebacker spot. Smith averaged 17 tackles per game as an outside linebacker and strong safety his final season at Hibriten High in Lenoir, N.C.

DL ALDRICK FORDHAM

Fordham's redshirt was burned when injuries to defensive tackles Travian Robertson and Melvin Ingram forced the coaches to play him against S.C. State. Fordham had four tackles against the Bulldogs but played sparingly the rest of the season.

The 6-4, 234-pound freshman can play either end or tackle, but he needs to bulk up if he is going to stay in the interior. He should have time to do so: Assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson hopes to redshirt Fordham in 2010 if possible.

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