May 1, 2008

Spurrier: Beecher Could Be 2-Year Starter

FORT MILL - Eight days ago, Steve Spurrier named redshirt junior Tommy Beecher as South Carolina's No. 1 quarterback in the wake of the April 19 Garnet and Black game.

At the time, he said if USC had to play a football game tomorrow, Beecher would be the choice over redshirt sophomore Chris Smelley.

Now he's thinking more long-term.

Oh, about two dozen games or more.

"Tommy Beecher, as I keep telling people, is a very talented kid," Spurrier said Wednesday night to a small group of reporters. "He can make all the throws. He can run around. He's very smart. This is his fourth year. He has a chance to be a two-year starter. He and Chris will still sort of battle it out in the summer, but right now, based on the scrimmages this spring, Tommy is the leader."

In the eyes of Spurrier, Beecher earned the right to be named the No. 1 QB by outperforming Chris Smelley in last Saturday's spring game, as well as the preceding scrimmages and practices.

"He's 6-foot-2, about 220 to 225 pounds and very solid," Spurrier told the York County crowd. "He actually runs faster than our other quarterbacks. He can run out of the pocket and make things happen. We're trying to get Tommy a little confidence. He hasn't had a chance to play much yet. Hopefully, he'll have a wonderful summer working out."

The Concord, N.C. native completed nine-of-20 passes for 131 yards in the spring game, including 8-of-16 in the first half with a 34-yard TD toss to Dion Lecorn. He threw three of the offense's eight interceptions.

Smelley connected on 13 of 30 passes for 219 yards and five interceptions in the spring game. He threw for 1,176 yards last season in six starts.

"Chris played pretty well at times last season, not so well at other times," Spurrier said. "He needs to get a little better. He struggled in the spring game. He's got some ability. Hopefully, we'll do a better job coaching (the quarterbacks)."

While Spurrier has previously said incoming freshman Aramis Hillary could be USC's No. 3 quarterback this spring, he didn't think either he or Reid McCollum will play in 2008.

Still, Spurrier again praised Hillary for his dedication.

"He's from a football family and he loves football," Spurrier said. "He wants to learn everything he can about playing quarterback in our offense. He's the kind of young man as a coach you get excited about having on the team. He's got one of the bests attitudes of any young man I've ever signed."

Whoever starts at quarterback this season will be handing off to a new No. 1 running back after Tampa Bay selected Cory Boyd in the seventh-round of last weekend's NFL Draft.

"We were hoping and believing he might go earlier," Spurrier said. "But at least he did get drafted. Tampa Bay is a wonderful organization. Jon Gruden is a good friend and excellent coach. That may be the best spot for him. We wish Cory the best. We know he'll be ready to give it his best shot down there."

While USC had just one player drafted this year, Spurrier hopes the harvest will be more plentiful in future years.

"We're going to have some more players drafted in the next three or four years," Spurrier said. "Our big recruiting class was two years ago. Hopefully, one of these (years), we'll have four or five guys drafted. And we'll have some linemen drafted. We haven't had one in the three years since I've been there."

Spurrier wasn't surprised DE Casper Brinkley did not get selected, but he was pleased he signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers.

"He wasn't projected (to be drafted), but he signed with Carolina, so we appreciate Coach (John) Fox and those guys giving him a chance," Spurrier said. "I think he's got a great chance to make the team. Casper is a good athlete that can play special teams and do a lot of things. So, hopefully, some of our other guys will get a shot somewhere."

Spurrier was still in good spirits following Wednesday's five-stroke victory shared with golfing partner Sterling Sharpe in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl Alma Mater at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.

Spurrier and Sharpe, a former All-America wide receiver for the Gamecocks in the 1980's, shot a 12-under par 60. The tournament utilized a scramble format. The victory earned USC a $100,000 first-place scholarship donation.

"Sterling Sharpe is as good of a scramble partner as you can have," Spurrier said. "He hits it a long, long way. He hits as long as the longest-hitting pros, 340 (yards, 350, like that. We were playing from some short spots. He only hit a couple of wayward drives. I happened to get my small one down on those holes. He made some putts on the front and I made a bunch of punts on the back (nine). It was one of the best putting days I've had. We teamed up pretty well."


-- USC OT Justin Sorensen was selected by the B.C. Lions with the fifth overall pick in the first round of Wednesday's CFL Canadian Draft. The 6-foot-7, 327-pound Sorensen, a native of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, has one year of eligibility remaining at the USC. Spurrier said Wednesday night he expects Sorensen will return to the Gamecocks for the 2008 season. OG Gurminder Thind was also selected in the fourth round by the Montreal Alouettes. "Justin's definitely planning on coming back," Spurrier said. "Gurminder is still hurt."

-- Spurrier said new special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski "yells and screams," but has won the respect of the players. "He's going to help us become a tougher team and fundamentally more sound on special teams."

-- Spurrier said he has not yet spoken with team doctors regarding the results left tackle Hutch Eckerson's recent arthroscopic surgery. Eckerson is battling redshirt freshman Quintin Richardson for the starting left tackle job since last year's starter Jamon Meredith must miss the first two games of the season under the a NCAA ruling two years ago granting him a medical hardship for the 2004 season.

-- Spurrier said punter Spencer Lanning from nearby York, S.C. "punts pretty well at times" and that he had a chance to become USC's new punter. Lanning battled Ryan Succop for the job this spring.

-- Spurrier said WR/DB Charles Whitlock of Chester, S.C. "has a lot of talent but needs to learn to play at a lot faster pace. So, hopefully, we can get him moving quicker and faster."

-- Spurrier said DE signee Chaz Sutton of Savannah, Ga. "could be a heck of an outside linebacker for us, maybe this year." Spurrier added that Sutton's grades were 'close', but that the coaching staff expected him to qualify.

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