College Sports

Offense shines in South Carolina scrimmage

COLUMBIA -- Since Steve Spurrier is always his offense's harsh critic, his reaction to Saturday's scrimmage qualified as glowing.

That was unusual. But as Spurrier pointed out, so were the five offensive touchdowns, the quarterbacks who could scramble, and the completion percentage.

"Yeah, it wasn't quite as sloppy as most of ours have been lately," Spurrier said, alluding to the eight-interception spring game. "So it was a little bit encouraging."

The scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium was closed to the public and media. By all accounts, however, the offense was ahead of the defense, which is a reversal from what's expected of the Gamecocks this season.

The two top quarterbacks, Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley, had nearly identical stat lines, combining to go 18-for-31 with 137 passing yards and four touchdowns. Third-string Stephen Garcia was 6-for-8 with 67 yards, a touchdown and the only interception.

"I thought the offense looked pretty (good)," said Beecher, the projected starter. "We moved the ball up and down the field pretty good. But there's defensively some areas we need to work on. ... But it was a good day."

Spurrier seemed more excited about the scrambling ability of his quarterbacks. Garcia was the game's leading rusher with 21 yards on three carries, and Beecher had a 7-yard gain.

"They ran out and made some scramble plays, which we haven't seen in this stadium by South Carolina quarterbacks except when Syvelle (Newton) did it," Spurrier said. "It's always helpful when your defenses are moving back there."

Not moving very fast, according to USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. From his vantage point in the press box, Johnson's biggest concern was that his unit "looked slow."

It didn't help that middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was absent while attending a funeral. Brinkley might not have played very much anyway, as he's still dealing with a sprained ankle incurred in Friday's practice.

There were no major injuries in the scrimmage itself. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who also sprained his ankle in Friday's practice, played and had the game's only interception.

But it was the offense's day. Tight end Weslye Saunders had two touchdown catches. Tailback Brian Maddox, top on the depth chart with Mike Davis hurt, caught three passes for 35 yards. Receivers Jason Barnes and Joe Hills and tailback Bobby Wallace hauled in the other touchdowns.

The Gamecocks might also have a new No. 2 receiver. Assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said junior Moe Brown, and not sophomore Dion LeCorn, is now in that spot, while Barnes, LeCorn and Hill are "battling it out."

"I tell you what's encouraging is we do things a little bit better on both sides, maybe we'll have some type of year that we'll be proud of," Spurrier Sr. said. "But obviously, like all coaches (say), we're a long way off. And we are a long way off. But these guys have ability. ... So we have a chance."

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