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September 1, 2008

Beecher injury clouds South Carolina QB situation

With Tommy Beecher missing two practices with a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said during his Sunday press conference that he may have to use a two-headed quarterback system.

"It appears that we're probably going to need two quarterbacks," he said. "Guys get hit all the time and this, that and the other. So we'll see how the season rolls, what Tommy can do. You'd have to guess we're going to need two quarterbacks probably to maximize our talent this year."

Beecher dove headfirst into a tackle during a 34-0 win over N.C. State last week, getting knocked woozy and hurting his shoulder. The redshirt junior, who'd already thrown four interceptions, left the game and was replaced by Chris Smelley.

The question raised immediately after the game was if Beecher, Spurrier's endorsed starter throughout the preseason, would be starting Thursday's game at Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks' SEC opener. When Beecher showed up at Saturday's practice in a yellow jersey, no pads and cradling his left arm, the quarterback's health was added to the mix.

Spurrier said it wasn't definite that Smelley would start but pointed out that if Beecher couldn't practice much this week, it would obviously push Smelley to the top. Smelley and third-stringer Stephen Garcia split the snaps during Saturday and Sunday practices and were the only two healthy quarterbacks not working with the scout team.

"We'll announce later in the week, but right now, Tommy was not even able to practice (Saturday)," Spurrier said. "The trainers think he'll definitely be ready by Thursday night. So we'll see how practice goes this week and announce something probably Wednesday or so."

The two-headed QB system wouldn't be unfamiliar to the Gamecocks. Blake Mitchell, Syvelle Newton and Smelley revolved through the position during the past three seasons. Spurrier didn't go into detail about specific game-planning, but in the past he's mentioned his desire to run a downfield passing game and to be able to use a mobile quarterback during running packages.

Beecher struggled against the Wolfpack, but his bright spot was running the ball. He collected 41 yards on the ground (including sacks, his net yardage was 25) but after the offensive line allowed a few hits on him, Beecher became gun-shy and started running into trouble.

The passing game clicked when Smelley entered the game, and the former starter was hardly pressured and never had to run. At times last year, though, Smelley could be caught waiting too long in the pocket for a route to open and leave himself open to a hit.

Receiver Moe Brown, the intended target each time Beecher was intercepted against N.C. State, caught a late pass from Smelley. He said it didn't make a difference whether it was Beecher or Smelley throwing.

"I don't think it's necessarily me working better (with Smelley)," Brown said. "Me and Beech have been connecting all fall with it. I think it was just the momentum had came and swung and that's how the game was going at that particular time."


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