COLUMBIA -- Looks like South Carolina's got a No. 1 quarterback after all.
A few days after not wanting to pick a starting quarterback, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told a booster gathering Tuesday night that Tommy Beecher would get the nod if the season began now.
Dr. Don Worley, president of the Laurens County Gamecock Club, said Spurrier thought Beecher had a solid spring practice and would likely be the first to see action.
Spurrier cautioned the crowd of about 340 many things could happen before South Carolina's opening game with North Carolina State on Aug. 28.
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"There was a good reaction from the fans" about Beecher, Worley said.
Spurrier was on vacation and not immediately available for comment, South Carolina athletic spokesman Steve Fink said.
As late as Saturday afternoon, Spurrier said he didn't want to name a No. 1. Maybe it had something to do with the combined eight interceptions thrown at the spring game by Beecher and Chris Smelley, a soon-to-be sophomore who won four of his six starts last fall.
Beecher threw three interceptions and one touchdown in Saturday's game. Smelley had five interceptions and three TDs.
"At some point, one of the quarterbacks has to really show a strong commitment level to really want to be good. Right now, I don't think that any quarterback that we have here knows what really playing well is all about," Spurrier said after the game.
Apparently, Spurrier saw enough from Beecher to move him ahead of Smelley.
"Tommy's done well," South Carolina quarterbacks coach David Reaves said Wednesday. "He's been great at all of our scrimmages and practices. He's just got have the consistency to do it in games."
Attempts to reach Beecher were not immediately successful.
Quarterback was one of South Carolina's most unsettled positions last season.
Smelley started the season opener, a 28-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, because of a suspension to fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell.
Smelley was named the starter after the Gamecocks' first loss, a 28-16 defeat to national champ LSU, and held on to the job the next several games as he guided the team to three straight victories and, at 6-1, a No. 6 national ranking.
Things fell apart the next week, though, when Smelley was intercepted twice in Vanderbilt's 17-6 upset at Williams-Brice Stadium. The freshman started one more game the following week against Tennessee, but South Carolina fell behind 21-0 at half and Blake Mitchell came off in the bench as the Gamecocks lost 27-24 in overtime.
South Carolina would lost five in a row to finish the season at 6-6.
Smelly played in seven games last season, completing 92 of 162 passes for 1,176 yards, nine touchdown and seven interceptions.
Beecher saw action in all 12 games, but had only 23 pass attempts with one touchdown and one interception.
Those two were expected to compete with redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia this spring. But Garcia was suspended from all team activities by athletic director Eric Hyman after his third run in with the law in a little over a year on campus.
Spurrier has said if Garcia completes his requirements and is reinstated by administrators, he could return to the team in August. That might be too late to catch up with Beecher or Smelley in time for the season opener.
Along with Garcia should he return, the Gamecocks are expected to have freshman Aramis Hillary and Reid McCollum at quarterback this summer.
Worley said while fans at the Gamecock Club meeting were excited about what Beecher might do, they were also fired up when Spurrier told them South Carolina had similar talent to his championship teams at Florida. "He said now it was up to coaches to get them to believe that and play like that," Worley said.
Reaves, the QB coach, expected Smelley not to hang his head and keep pushing Beecher through the summer. "Chris is as competitor," Reaves said. "Chris will work hard and get better."
Reaves was hesitant to compare Beecher to steady, smart Phil Petty, South Carolina's starter in 2000 and 2001 when the Gamecocks had their most successful stretch ever with 17 victories and two Outback Bowl wins over Ohio State.
Like Petty, Beecher has always been mature and worked hard until opportunity knocked. "He kind of sat back and waited for his turn," Reaves said.
Sound like it may have finally arrived.