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May 2, 2006

Rank will stay, Beecher may go, Spurrier says

Redshirt freshman running back Taylor Rank told South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier shortly before the spring game on April 8th that he intended to transfer to a Division I-AA school in the Pacific Northwest closer to his Vancouver, Wa., home.

Well, he's changed his mind.

Rank will remain with the Gamecocks, Spurrier confirmed in a meeting with reporters Monday night prior to the start of the Lancaster County Gamecock Club meeting at the Catawba Fish Camp in Fort Lawn, S.C.

"Taylor is back on the team," Spurrier said. "I talked with him today and he said he had made a mistake and that he wanted to stay. I told him we would take him back but it's the last time, that the next time he quits he's finished. He said he understood."

Rank, who played briefly in the Georgia game last season before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season, was reportedly set to transfer to Montana State before deciding to stay with the Gamecocks.

Spurrier told the capacity crowd the same thing during a question and answer session following his 20-minute speech.

"His dad talked him into being patient and told him his time will come," Spurrier said. "He's a pretty good player. He has a chance to help us down the road."

But redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy Beecher, currently fourth on the depth chart, is still considering transferring to enhance his opportunity to see the field.

"Tommy is deciding this summer whether he wants to transfer where he has a better chance to play or stick around and try to beat out the guys in front of him," Spurrier said.

SPURRIER SURPRISED BY NFL DRAFT Based strictly on their performances in a Gamecock uniform, Spurrier is surprised cornerback Johnathan Joseph was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by Cincinnati (#24) while safety Ko Simpson lasted until the fourth round when he was picked by Buffalo.

Spurrier acknowledged Monday that sometimes there is little connection between how a prospect performs on the field in college and how they are viewed by NFL scouts.

"I've learned that sometimes the NFL Draft is based on how a player runs, jumps, and how he does at the Combine," Spurrier told reporters. "Obviously Ko Simpson was an All-SEC player, made one All-American team and was our leading tackler. He was our best defensive player last year. I don't know what they base it on. I've seen it happen like that before. The NFL drafts on potential. Certainly, Johnathan Joseph has potential. He can run fast. He's a strong kid. They believe his up side is real good."

Simpson led USC with 103 tackles in 2005, nearly 40 more than the second-place finisher. Joseph had a team-high four interceptions.

Still, although both Joseph and Simpson ended up being drafted, Spurrier later told the crowd in Lancaster that both players could have benefitted from playing at least one more season for USC.

"Personally, I thought both of them should have stayed (in college)," Spurrier said. "Maybe Johnathan Joseph going in the first round justified him coming out. I thought that if he had a super year (in 2006) with his ability to run and jump and play, that he could have had a better season and could been picked higher in the first round."

WHERE WILL SYVELLE NEWTON PLAY?: Spurrier said Monday that versatile athlete Syvelle Newton, who told the media during spring practice that he was moving to safety, "doesn't know where he wants to play."

But Spurrier made it plain that if Newton, still rehabilitating from a season-ending injury that forced him to miss the final five games last season, is 100 percent healthy when fall camp opens in early August, he would prefer Newton to play on the offensive side.

"Syvelle is coming around nicely from his injury," Spurrier said. "If he comes back 100 percent we have to get the ball in his hands. He can make things happen. That's what we need. Hopefully he'll come back 100 percent. He's on schedule right now."

Newton caught 27 passes and rushed 21 times for 150 yards in 2005 before suffering a torn Achilles tendon on Oct. 22 in a 35-28 victory over Vanderbilt.

SMELLEY COMPARABLE TO WUERFFEL: While it may be an unfair comparison now, Spurrier said Monday that incoming quarterback Chris Smelley, who has a 3.9 GPA in high school, shares many of the same attributes with former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, who led Florida to the national championship in 1996.

"Chris is very excited about trying to learn and being ready to go this year," Spurrier said. "Who knows if he'll be ready or not. He reminds me a little bit of Danny Wuerffel with his personality. I don't know if he can play like Danny Wuerffel. He's got a stronger arm than Danny Wuerffel. Hopefully, he's got some of those intangibles that quarterbacks must have."

Smelley threw for a state-record 4,120 yards and 59 touchdowns at American Christian Academy in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last season and was honored as the Gatorade Player of the Year for the State of Alabama.

NOTES:

-- Spurrier said Monday night that USC's multi-million capital campaign effort to improve its athletic facilities will kick off on May 17 with a major announcement by the university administration. Renovations of the campus dorms where the players reside will start shortly.

"We're going to treat our players right and with a little bit more class but we're going to expect more," Spurrier said. "We want them to play with class, play a little bit harder, and act like it's important to (them) a little bit better than what we've had in the past."

The top priority besides renovation of the dorms is the construction of a student academics center, Spurrier said.

"The important thing we tell our recruits and we tell the country that we're going to build our facilities as good as Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee," Spurrier said.

-- Spurrier accepted a $1,000 donation from the Lancaster County Gamecock Club toward USC's facilities improvement fund.

-- Spurrier continued his criticism of USC's second-half performance in the Independence Bowl loss to Missouri in Shreveport. "The team acted like they really didn't even care to be there," Spurrier said. "They had no zip, no effort. We couldn't put them away. We didn't play as if the game was all that important. It was very disappointing. Hopefully, our players will learn to compete a little bit better than we did in the second half of that game."

-- Defensive tackle Stanley Doughty must lose about 30 pounds and get down to about 305 pounds before he will become an effective player, Spurrier said. "If he does that he can be a terror inside," Spurrier said. "But at 330, 335, he's just a big 'ol dude out there."

-- Backup quarterback Cade Thompson must get stronger and put "a little more zip" on his passes, Spurrier said. Thompson completed 10-of-13 passes in the spring game.

-- Incoming freshman Emanuel Cook, the Class 6A Player of the Year in Florida, will play defensive back, outside linebacker or running back, Spurrier said.

-- Running back Cory Boyd told USC running backs coach Robert Gillespie that, contrary to recent newspaper reports, he did not break a window at a fraternity party that recently took place near Williams-Brice Stadium. "Cory said he didn't break the glass window," Spurrier said. "I don't know whether he broke it or didn't break it. There's been no charges on Cory. He was at some party, a fight broke out, and he got out of there. And somehow or another, there was a window broken."

-- Interim director Art Baker said that the Gamecock Club has received over $14 million in pledges, an all-time high, this year and that the Club now has over 15,000 members.

-- Spurrier said USC has a three-year deal with ESPN to open the college football season on national television. Presumably, the first year of the contract was 2005, meaning USC will also open the season in 2007 as well.

-- Assistant basketball coach Barry Sanderson told the crowd in Lancaster that talented forward Renaldo Balkman "showed up" in 22 of USC's 38 games this season and that "hopefully Balkman will come to his senses" and withdraw his name from the NBA Draft. Sanderson urged greater support of the basketball team by the fans and challenged them to make the Colonial Center "a real home court advantage." Finally, Sanderson promised "good news" on the recruiting front soon.

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