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Birmingham postcard, day 2

Greetings from Birmingham, site of the Papa Joe’s Bowl.

At least that’s how South Carolina receiver Moe Brown referred to it Wednesday during a morning press conference. Steve Spurrier, who was seated next to Brown, corrected him.

“Papa John’s,” Spurrier said under his breath. “You said Papa Joe’s.”

Spurrier obviously understands a thing or two about marketing. As the press conference wrapped up, the USC coach made sure to mention how much the team enjoyed the Papa John’s pizza the previous night.

“They must have brought 100 boxes in,” he said.

I’ve been here two days and have yet to have a slice – from Papa John’s, Joe’s, Jim’s or any pizzeria. I did eat at Jim and Nick’s Barbecue.

Or maybe it was Nick and Jim’s. Either way, the cheese biscuits were amazing.


Moving on to football matters …

–The week did not start well for USC QB Stephen Garcia, who could not remember a practice he’s had that was as bad as Wednesday’s. Garcia said he was throwing high to most of his receivers, but refused to blame the cold, wet conditions.

But Garcia, who struggled at last year’s Outback Bowl in his Tampa hometown, did not seem too concerned.

“It’s practice. It is what it is,” Garcia said. “You practice to get better. We’ll be all right. We’re fine.”

–Spurrier said he expects to use a three-player rotation at offensive tackle against UConn, with Jarriel King, Hutch Eckerson and Kyle Nunn sharing the reps.

–Backup safety Jarrett Burns, out since the UT game with torn ligaments in his finger, has been cleared to practice. If Burns plays Saturday, it would be on special teams.

–UConn coach Randy Edsall and his players talked a lot about Jasper Howard, the 20-year-old cornerback who died in October after being stabbed outside a campus party.

The team has kept Howard’s locker intact, and the players have a decal of his No. 6 on their helmets. Edsall, who has been widely praised for his handling of the situation, lost his father in February following a lengthy illness.

Edsall said he drew on that experience for strength as he tried to comfort his grieving players. Look for a story on Howard in Thursday’s editions of The State.

–Asked what a win Saturday would mean for the future of the program, Spurrier – seated between Brown and LB Eric Norwood – said neither player would be around next season. In other words, this game is for this season.

–Norwood followed up by saying he has a chance to put book-end wins on the start and finish of his career. The Gamecocks shut out Mississippi State in Starkville in Norwood’s first game at USC.