College Sports

USC's freshman receivers trying to get loose

Chris Culliver (17) has been the only one of USC's freshman wide receivers to see a lot of game action.
Chris Culliver (17) has been the only one of USC's freshman wide receivers to see a lot of game action.

COLUMBIA -- Through two games, South Carolina's highly touted group of young wide receivers has been almost non-existent.

Not that it's solely their fault -- the veteran receivers haven't been doing much either, stemming from a limited playbook and a pieced-together offensive line.

"Whether or not we can pass-block South Carolina State, I don't know," coach Steve Spurrier said, previewing Saturday's game. "We haven't been able to throw the ball downfield."

The No. 17 Gamecocks have racked up 412 receiving yards on 41 catches, 13 balls going to No. 1 receiver Kenny McKinley.

Tailbacks Mike Davis and Cory Boyd have seven catches each. Tight ends Jared Cook and Andy Boyd have four each. The only others who have caught a pass are Freddie Brown (three), Moe Brown (two) and freshman tight end Weslye Saunders (one).

For an offensive mind that's been prided on its devotion to a spread passing game and a team that boasts a lot of speed in the receiving corps, it's troubling.

"We haven't really pass-blocked anybody yet," Spurrier said. "At times we have decent protection, but the (Louisiana-Lafayette) guys, they got a lot of pressure on the quarterback also."

Spurrier said this week will hopefully give him the chance to air it out a bit more, trying to experiment and get his best guys on the field before a dangerous trip to No. 2 LSU next week. A big part of that is getting the seven rookie receivers -- Jason Barnes, Mark Barnes, Michael Bowman, Matt Clements, Chris Culliver, Joseph Hills and Dion Lecorn -- some playing time.

Culliver, Jason Barnes and Clements have played, Culliver seeing the most action as an option on end-arounds. The freshman has run the route three times for 32 yards.

Barnes and Clements have played but haven't caught a pass, Hills is likely headed for a redshirt after missing most of preseason camp with a sprained knee and Mark Barnes, after a solid preseason scrimmage, has gone back to the scout team.

The others have been riding the bench as the Gamecocks have relied mostly on the running game and keeping the quarterbacks reined in. Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher have mostly used screen passes or dumped underneath to the tailback or McKinley for their main targets.

• LOOKING FOR STABILITY: The offensive line, for the third straight week, is in a state of confusion. The starters seem set but with James Thompson still under suspension, each starter may have to play some backup duty at another spot.

Backup Gurminder Thind played well at Georgia last week and could break into the starting lineup, ahead of left tackle Jamon Meredith or left guard Garrett Anderson. Anderson is also listed as the backup to Web Brown at center and Lemuel Jeanpierre at right guard.

Justin Sorensen is slated to start at right tackle with Hutch Eckerson behind him.

Compounding the problem is Kevin Young, out with a sprained ankle for at least one more week. Young was going to play ahead of Jeanpierre until the injury.

Spurrier also mentioned defensive linemen Terrence Campbell and Kenrick Ellis could see some time on offense.

"I'm hoping that I'll be able to get used to kicking back with my right foot instead of my left," said Anderson, describing his various duties. "But I still have no idea what I'm playing. I pretty much just jump in whatever position and just try for it."

• DON'T MISQUOTE ME: Spurrier voiced his displeasure with ESPN "GameDay" host Chris Fowler, who he said misquoted him last week. Spurrier said he was working out on the hotel treadmill before the Georgia game and heard Fowler discussing the matchup.

"He was on TV saying I called our defensive team a bunch of average stiffs when all you guys know I called our team, including me, a bunch of average stiffs," Spurrier said. "I don't appreciate the guy misquoting what I say and if he can't get it correctly, maybe he shouldn't even talk about South Carolina."

• PRECAUTION: The devastating spinal injury to Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett caused Spurrier and his coaching staff to call a special meeting. The subject was to protect themselves as much as possible on the field, i.e., don't lower your head.

"We always try to tell our guys to keep their heads up," Spurrier said. "We try to tell our guys to hit head-up and never, never, ever duck your head."

• ON THE MEND: Young, tailback Bobby Wallace (collarbone) and linebacker Yvan Banag (right knee) are most likely out for this week. Lindsey (right knee) and Culliver (left ankle) are questionable.

Defensive lineman Nathan Pepper (right leg) and Smelley (right shoulder) could be cleared to play Saturday. Linebacker Cody Wells (leg) returned to practice this week after sitting out the Georgia game.

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