COLUMBIA -- As of Thursday, Blake Mitchell is suspended for South Carolina's Sept. 1 season-opener, but if the quarterback wins an appeal, he will lead the Gamecocks' offense as planned against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Mitchell and three other players were suspended Thursday for missing excessive summer school classes, as per school policy. Coach Steve Spurrier, who said he supported the policy 100 percent, suspended Mitchell, tailback Bobby Wallace, defensive back Chris Hail and defensive end Jordin Lindsey.
"They tell me who's in and who's out, as far as that goes," Spurrier said. "If Blake's in, he'll start the game."
Lindsey, who has missed most of preseason camp while battling NCAA eligibility issues, appealed and got his suspension revoked. Mitchell is attempting to do the same.
If he wins, Mitchell will start. If not, redshirt freshman Chris Smelley will get his first collegiate start.
"If I get a chance to start, then I plan to be out there playing as hard as I can and hopefully do everything I can to help the team win," said Smelley, who has completed 9-of-15 passes in his varsity career, spelling Mitchell for brief periods in the season's first two games last year. "I'll be ready."
"Blake should have gone to class," Spurrier said. "If has to miss one (game), we'll live with it."
Mitchell was suspended for USC's first two practices this year after missing too much class. Spurrier said then he was disappointed in his fifth-year senior quarterback, but wasn't surprised.
"He's done some disappointing things before," he said then.
Spurrier was probably referring to Mitchell's arrest on Sept. 16 last season, where he punched a bar bouncer and later turned himself into the police. The charges were dropped, but Mitchell sat out USC's 27-20 win over Wofford, also skipping the next six games when Syvelle Newton took over at quarterback.
Mitchell replaced Newton in the second half of the Arkansas game and threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns. He stayed under center for the duration of the season, throwing for 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns, capped by an MVP-winning performance in the Liberty Bowl.
With Newton gone and Mitchell's status in the air, USC is left with Smelley, redshirt sophomore Tommy Beecher, true freshman Stephen Garcia and walk-ons Zac Brindise and Michael McQueeney. Beecher, who cemented the backup role at the end of last year, has thrown two career passes and has battled Smelley for the No. 2 spot in camp.
"It hasn't really been a big deal so far, because Blake's getting it appealed," said Beecher, who would most likely back up Smelley if Mitchell stays suspended. "We're not sure what's going on."
Wallace broke his collarbone in camp and was likely headed for a redshirt season. Hail is a reserve who caught three passes last year but switched to DB this year.