College Sports

For USC's on again/off again QB, things aren't going according to plan

TAMPA, Fla. -- Iowa's Shonn Greene announced Thursday he will turn pro. South Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn and Eric Norwood did the same, according to an ESPN.com report.

No such pronouncement passed from the lips of redshirt sophomore Chris Smelley. Pro football is not on the radar these days for the once highly-touted quarterback, which sums up just how differently his time at USC has progressed from what he had expected.

Smelley spent the second half of USC's 31-10 loss at the Outback Bowl in no man's land, somewhere between auditioning for the starting gig in 2009 and playing out the 2008 string.

He led the Gamecocks on two scoring drives, but his numbers -- 16-of-31 passing for 179 yards and a touchdown -- were run-of-the-mill and came after Iowa took a 31-0 advantage.

"I was just up and down," Smelley said. "I have to do better."

A three-play sequence in the fourth quarter summed up Smelley's inconsistent performance. With a first-and-goal on the Iowa 10, Smelley lobbed a pair of fades to Kenny McKinley in the end zone. The first was overthrown while the second was tossed too early.

The third time was the charm: A lob over tight end Jared Cook's shoulders down the middle.

"I thought he played pretty decent here and there," USC coach Steve Spurrier said. "On a couple of third-and-10s, I wish he would have stayed down the field a little more instead of throwing short. We could have had some better plays."

Throwing down the field on Thursday didn't seem to be a good answer, either. Starting quarterback Stephen Garcia got the hook at halftime after a three-interception performance in which two of the picks came on deep throws.

"I thought Stephen deserved to start," Smelley said. "We didn't get anything going in the first half, so we were just trying to change it up, (but) I was just up and down. I've just got to get ready to come out next year and prove a lot and be ready to go."

If all had gone according to plan coming out of high school, Smelley shouldn't have had anything left to prove on Thursday.

In 2006, Smelley was considered one of the nation's elite high school pro-style quarterbacks. On Rivals.com's list, he was ranked No. 8, behind Matthew Stafford and just ahead of Sam Bradford. He spurned hometown school Alabama, as well as Louisville, for a chance to learn the game from Spurrier at USC.

In April, Stafford and Bradford likely will hear their names called in the first round of the NFL draft. Smelley, meanwhile, will have just finished battling Garcia for the starting job in spring practice.

And a battle it will be. After watching his top two quarterbacks muddle through a dreadful season-ending, three-game stretch, Spurrier is nowhere near declaring anyone his favorite for 2009.

"We'll have to go through spring practice before we make a decision on that," Spurrier said. "Stephen certainly has a long way to go as far as making decisions and knowing where everyone is and so forth. We'll just have to let it play out."

Smelley also isn't prepared to declare himself the man.

"We'll have to wait and see how it goes," Smelley said. "I know both me and Stephen will be prepared as quarterbacks can be for next year, so we'll see."

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