College Sports

Barnes makes most of switch

South Carolina's Jason Barnes makes a catch during practice at Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina's Jason Barnes makes a catch during practice at Williams-Brice Stadium.

COLUMBIA -- Mark Barnes didn't wait long to anchor himself in as a wide receiver.

Barnes, a freshman from Columbia's Richland Northeast High School, had been mostly quiet in camp until Friday, when South Carolina's coaches moved him from defensive back to receiver. Despite being handed an offensive playbook less than a day earlier, Barnes caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown during Saturday's scrimmage.

"I had fun," he said. "Basically, I feel more comfortable anywhere on the field, as long as I'm on there."

Barnes highlighted the short scrimmage, which was once again dominated by the defense and had coach Steve Spurrier again criticizing the offensive line. Just as in last week's first scrimmage, the event was attended by a strong crowd, but this time it got to see some of the starters.

Quarterback Blake Mitchell took over the practice's first drive and completed 5-of-9 throws for 55 yards, air-mailing a couple of receivers but otherwise moving the Gamecocks to a first-and-10 at the 17-yard line. A flag and a couple of busted plays set up fourth-and-3 from the 10, when former York standout Spencer Lanning was summoned for a 28-yard field goal.

Lanning pulled his first try wide left but more than made up for it later.

After Mitchell took a seat and the offense began floundering, Lanning notched the scrimmage's first points on a 53-yard knuckling line drive over the crossbar.

The points seemed to break up the Gamecocks' doldrums. The last two drives featured Chris Smelley tossing an 18-yard spiral to Freddie Brown for a touchdown and Tommy Beecher hitting Barnes for a 37-yard hitch-and-go down the right sideline.

"It surprised me a bit by how many balls I caught," Barnes said. "(The switch was) something that's been roaming around for a little bit, and they finally did it."

The late touchdowns and Lanning's Herculean kick helped salvage what to that point had been a defensive showcase. Smelley, Mitchell, Beecher and Stephen Garcia were touched by a defender 16 times, seven turning into sacks.

"Our offensive line didn't play so good, well, some of them did," Spurrier said. "That's going to happen when you play so many young guys."

Garcia, who highlighted the first scrimmage, was so flustered after one hit from Jonathan Williams that he fired the dead ball across the middle. The freshman had an average day -- on par with the rest of USC's backup QBs -- hitting Weslye Saunders with a 27-yard catch-and-run but also tossing the day's only interception.

With starting tailbacks Mike Davis and Cory Boyd sitting out and backups Bobby Wallace (broken collarbone, out five-to-six weeks) and Taylor Rank nursing injuries, freshman Brian Maddox and recently converted fullback Patrick DiMarco got their chances. Maddox rushed four times for 21 yards and DiMarco had two carries for three yards, also catching three passes for 25 yards.

Maddox drew oohs with a crunching block on defensive end Cliff Matthews, but DiMarco's highlight reel wasn't as bright. He fumbled on a handoff from Beecher, losing the ball to Byron McKnight.

The Gamecocks aren't set to have any more open scrimmages, but the schedule could change. Spurrier mentioned he could decide to scrimmage again next Saturday and should make a decision this week.

• NOTES: Linebacker Jasper Brinkley (ankle) and Dustin Lindsey (knee) sat out. Brinkley's injury is non-serious while Lindsey, still recovering from a torn MCL in the spring, may be shelved for the season. ... Jordin Lindsey was back with the team after missing most of the first two weeks with academic issues.

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