Gamecocks' Beecher, receivers struggle in second preseason scrimmage

COLUMBIA -- The knock on Tommy Beecher has been his lack of experience.

Well, the South Carolina quarterback got plenty of it Wednesday night -- and Gamecock fans and coaching staff can only hope Beecher learned from it.

Beecher struggled in USC's second preseason scrimmage, holding on to the ball too long and failing to get any rhythm going with a receiving corps that was missing its top targets.

The right-hander completed 15 of 30 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown -- a 15-yarder to Jason Barnes on the final play of the scrimmage, which drew about 5,000 fans to Williams-Brice Stadium.

Beecher was sacked three times and intercepted once -- on a ball delivered late to tailback Eric Baker that safety Chris Hail picked off and returned 45 yards for a score.

"Tommy hasn't played much at all, and I guess it was obvious tonight he hasn't played much," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He got hung up, scrambled around, scrambled around. But you can't do it that much in our conference, or in any conference really. Hopefully, we can coach him up better, get him ready to go in a couple weeks."

Chris Smelley was 5-of-10 passing for 85 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Smelley, who was 4-2 last year as a starter, guided the offense to touchdowns on each of his two series.

Beecher, who enters the season with no career starts and 25 pass attempts, led touchdown drives in two of his 10 series.

But Spurrier said he was sticking with Beecher, whom he named the starter following spring practice.

"Decision making, he hasn't done a lot. He hasn't played a lot," Spurrier said. "That's why we left him out there and let him struggle. We'll see if he can learn from it."

Beecher agreed with Spurrier's assessment that he was too deliberate in the pocket.

"I've gotta get rid of the ball," he said. "It was a rough night for me tonight, but I'll work hard to get better. We've still got two more weeks before N.C. State. It's discouraging because I'd had a pretty good camp so far. ... But I'll learn from my mistakes and get better."

Several starters on both sides of the ball sat out the scrimmage due to injuries or -- in the case of All-SEC receiver Kenny McKinley -- because coaches know what they can do.

It was suggested to Beecher that things might have gone more smoothly with McKinley in the lineup.

"Of course, quarterbacks like looking out there and seeing Kenny out there because he's a proven, veteran guy that's made big plays in games for us. But that's no excuse," Beecher said. "I've got to be able to perform with whoever's out there. ... It was completely my fault tonight."

Subbing for injured starter Mike Davis, sophomore tailback Brian Maddox did most of the work on the first scoring drive. The Anderson native rushed for 48 yards on seven carries, the last one a 1-yard touchdown.

That was the end of the night for Maddox, who believes he has made a case for more touches after rushing six times as a freshman.

"Just seize the moment. Just focusing on everything I have to do to be that guy," said Maddox, who predicted he would "get a whole lot more carries this year."

The Gamecocks will scrimmage again Saturday, with more veteran players expected to participate. Beecher will get another chance to prove he is ready for prime time.

"This was probably good for Tommy. He needs to understand he's not done much yet," Spurrier said. "Chris Smelley did a few good things here and there. He probably out-graded Tommy tonight. But Tommy's the starter."