August 22, 2007

Culliver, Smelley shine in final scrimmage

Chris Culliver came to South Carolina as a five-start recruit with a lot of hype.

Wednesday night, he lived up to it.

Culliver caught four passes for 68 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown from quarterback Chris Smelley, in the final scrimmage of fall camp at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Culliver led an offensive revival during the 61-play session that saw USC's three veteran quarterbacks combine to complete 24-of-34 passes for 267 yards and five touchdowns.

But the defense made its shares of big plays, too.

"Chris Culliver made a few catches and ran with it after he caught it, so that was encouraging," Spurrier said. "The defense did a lot of good things most of the night."

Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley did not participate in the scrimmage, and will be held out of practice until next week in order to allow his sprained left ankle adequate time to heal. Brinkley suffered the injury last Wednesday night in a drill before the start of a scrimmage. He was wearing a walking boot Wednesday night.

Smelley, engaged in a down-to-the-wire battle with Tommy Beecher for the No. 2 quarterback job, accumulated the best statistics among the three quarterbacks, connecting on 12-of-16 passes for 169 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

His TD connections went to Weslye Saunders (46 yards), Mark Barnes (19 yards) and Culliver. All three receivers are true freshmen.

"The scrimmage went pretty well," Smelley said. "The offense made some plays and the defense made some plays as well. It was a good tuneup for the last scrimmage. The receivers were getting open and making some plays.

Starting QB Blake Mitchell was 8-for-12 for 78 yards and one TD toss, a five-yard to Larry Freeman for the final score of the night. Tommy Beecher completed 4-of-6 passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.

"The quarterbacks played decent," Spurrier said. "Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher did some good things. Blake did a few good things here and there. We had a few errant passes but not too many tonight."

Smelley said the competition between him and Beecher to earn the right to become the top backup to Mitchell is extremely tight.

"We both played pretty well and we both bring a lot to the table," Smelley said. "We're both confident we can go out there and help the team if we needed to. I feel like I'm ready to play right now if I get a chance and show myself on the field."

The quarterbacks worked behind an improved offensive line that featured LT Jamon Meredith, LG Gurminder Thind, C William Brown, RG James Thompson and RT Justin Sorensen as the first-team unit.

"Our offensive line did some good things here and there and struggled a lot at other times," Spurrier said. "But maybe that's because we have a pretty good D-Line. I don't know yet. We have to go play the opponents and then we'll find out exactly where we are."

Garrett Anderson, formerly the starting left guard, has been shifted to backup center behind Brown.

"We're coming together better as a unit," Anderson said. "I think we're working a lot better together. We have a ways to go. We're not a perfect offensive line. But if we keep working hard we'll be competitive and hopefully we'll be good enough to win a bunch of games this year."

Added Smelley: "The first-team offensive line is really coming together. I think they'll be fine come game time. The line was giving the quarterback some time to throw. It was a better day."

Mike Davis (six carries for 23 yards) and Brian Maddox (five carries for 40 yards) led USC's rushing attack. Davis, however, "dinged up" his shoulder, according to Spurrier, but should be okay. He will have it evaluated by team doctors Thursday.

The longest run for Maddox was a 19-yard gallop. Most of the yards for Davis came on a 21-yard burst.

Saunders finished with two receptions, one of them the 46-yard touchdown. Smelley found him open on a seam route and Saunders went into the end zone unabated.

Freshman Mark Barnes snagged a 19-yard touchdown pass from Smelley for his second touchdown in as many scrimmages since moving to wide receiver from strong safety, while Larry Freeman and Lanard Stafford also contributed TD receptions.

Sixteen different receivers caught at least one pass.

All five touchdowns scored by the offense came through the air. Two of the scores came when the offense started at the 30-yard line and drove the length of the field. Three more occurred later when USC practiced its red-zone offense.

Culliver leaped in the air to catch a pass from Smelley and sprinted down the left sideline for the score

"When he gets it into his hands, he can go the distance," Spurrier said. "He reminds me of Syvelle Newton, when he has the ball in his hands he's real fast. If we can get him running routes and pretend he has the ball in his hand, he's going to be something. But it's all new for him. He made some progress tonight."

SCRIMMAGE STATISTICS

RUSHING: Mike Davis 6-23, Brian Maddox 5-40, Patrick DiMarco 5-12, Blake Mitchell 4-(-7), Chris Smelley 1-(-6), Tommy Beecher 3-(-4), Bryan Kingrey 2-12.

PASSING: Blake Mitchell 8-12-0, 78 yards, 1 TD; Tommy Beecher 4-6-0, 20 yards, 1 TD; Chris Smelley 12-16-1, 169 yards, 3 TD's.

RECEIVING: Mark Barnes 1-19, 1 TD; Weslye Saunders 2-56, 1 TD; Larry Freeman 2-13, 1 TD; Dion Lecorn 1-4, Mike Davis 1-8, Clark Gaston 2-7, Patrick DiMarco 1-6, Nick Prochak 1-18, Kenny McKinley 1-9, Matt Clements 2-6, Chris Culliver 4-68, 1 TD; Paul Haile 1-7 Robert Pavlovic 1-9, Lanard Stafford 1-3, 1 TD, Taylor Rank 2-23.

SCORING PLAYS:
Weslye Saunders 46-yard pass from Chris Smelley (Ryan Succop kick)
Chris Culliver 35-yard pass from Smelley (Succop kick)
Lanard Stafford 3-yard pass from Tommy Beecher (Succop kick)
Mark Barnes 19-yard pass from Smelley (Hooper kick)
Larry Freeman 5-yard pass from Blake Mitchell (Lanning kick)

ANDY BOYD BEGINS FINAL JOURNEY: After five years of battling injuries and misfortune, tight end Andy Boyd hopes the sixth time is a charm, and that he can finally make it through a single season unscathed.

Boyd, who signed with USC in 2002 out of Concord (N.C.) High School, enters the 2007 season as USC's No. 1 tight end based on his years of experiences and skills as a blocker. He was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because injuries have ravaged his career.

The latest on a laundry list of injuries was a shoulder injury sustained prior to last season that sidelined him for the first four games, and kept him out of spring drills. He underwent surgery soon after the season ended.

But he's healthy now and ready for his final season of college football to begin.

"It's going well. I'm just making sure I stay healthy," Boyd said. "All the injuries are in the past. I'm just trying to get back in shape and getting myself ready for game time speed, things like that.

He appeared in nine games in 2006, starting five, and was voted to the All-SEC Second Team by the league coaches. He made a career high two receptions, including a 48-yarder at Florida. .

"When I hurt (the right shoulder) last fall, I broke my scapula and ended up being my labrum which was torn a little bit," Boyd said. "When I came back from that injury and played the rest of the season, I agreed to go ahead and get it fixed (after the season). There's no reason to go through spring and rush it. Right now, there's no restriction, no pain in it at all.".

Boyd played five games as a true freshman in 2002 before a torn ACL forced him to miss the entire 2003 season. He returned to play 10 games in 2004. But a hyper-extended left knee ended his 2005 season after just two games, and he underwent ACL surgery in November.

"I've had two years stripped away," Boyd said. "It was nothing I did, I was just playing the game. This being the last year, I know for sure I won't be coming back. The way I look at it, A lot of the injuries I've had have been freak accidents. You know, both my ACL tears were with no contact. One was a hyperextension, the other was a knee just went out."

Despite his injury-prone career, Boyd says the worst thing a player can do is become tentative on the field because that's when injuries are more likely to occur.

"If you're too tentative and don't play hard, that's when you get injured," Boyd said. "Every time I'm out there, I just try to go balls to the wall. That's truly the only way I know how to play. The only thing I can really do is go out there and work hard. I know how to block. I really work hard at running my pass routes. At this position, you have to have a balance between the two. You have your receiving tight ends and you've got your block tight ends but there really needs to be a mixture between the two."

Like most of the other Tar Heel State natives on the roster, Boys is looking forward to facing North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Oct. 13.

"I grew up a North Carolina fan and I went through the recruiting process with them," Boyd said. "It should be a really good game. I've been to Keenan stadium a couple of times. I'll have some friends and family there to watch too. They were Tar Heel fans too but as soon as I committed (to USC) my family did too."

2007 FALL PRACTICE COUNTDOWN
Practices Held - 22
Practices Left - 8
Next Practice - Thur., Aug. 23, 4:15 p.m. (Closed)

NOTES:

-- The first broadcast of Spurrier's weekly statewide radio call-in show will be Thursday night at 7 p.m.

-- Spurrier said USC "won't do too much hitting" between now and the season opener next Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. "We've had pretty good scrimmage and very few injuries, so we've been fortunate in that area."

-- Smelley said he has a far superior knowledge of the offensive system compared to last year. "I'm a totally different quarterback this year as far as knowledge and understanding what I need to do out there," Smelley said. "It's a completely different game. I feel good"

-- Spurrier said Jasper Brinkley's ankle "was bothering him a bit. We're going to see if he can rest it and get well by Monday."

-- Spurrier told his team to go to class Thursday and "be on time." If they're not, Spurrier said, "we'll find out." The 20-hour rule kicks in once classes start.

-- USC will practice Thursday and Friday at 4:15 p.m. and Saturday morning before taking Sunday off as the mandatory one-day break during game week.

-- Anderson said he did not see any action at left guard but he's the backup to Thind while also the backup to Brown at center. The second-team O-Line consists of Heath Batchelor and Hutch Eckerson, at tackle, Lemuel Jeanpierre and Kevin Young at guard and Anderson at center.

-- Spurrier said freshman wide receiver Joseph Hills could return to practice on Monday. He's been out for most of fall camp with a knee sprain.


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