After missing the first seven practices with a severe foot infection, sophomore running back Mike Davis finally put on the shoulder pads and a yellow jersey Friday night and rejoined his South Carolina teammates on the football field.
Davis, USC's leading rusher last season with 666 yards, was held out of most of the drills involving physical contact. Still, he was just happy to be back.
"It felt real good to be working out with the team," Davis said following the two-hour workout. "(The foot) feels great right now. I'm running on it. I'm just trying to get it right for the season. I'm trying to get back in the groove of things and get my wind back."
Davis, who did not know when he would be able to take off the yellow jersey, participated in the individual drills during the first hour or so of practice but remained on the sidelines for the second half when the Gamecocks ran through the 7-on-7 pass skeleton and 11-on-11 drills.
Spurrier was happy to see his starting tailback take it easy on his first night back.
"He's easing back into it," USC head coach Spurrier said. 'He told me the last time he ran was two weeks ago. He needs to work his way back into shape a little bit."
USC will conduct a scrimmage Saturday at 4:15 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. It will be open to the public.
Many of USC's redshirt freshman and true freshmen who have not yet played in a game should see significant action in the scrimmage, Spurrier said.
"We're going to let all the guys play a little bit and see how they play," Spurrier said. 'We're going to start grading individuals, judging each individual on how he plays his assignment, how he plays with effort and so forth. We're not going to get all competitive, offense versus defense. We're not into that right now. We don't do that in pre-season. That's for spring practice. We're all on one team. We're going to try to protect each other and play some ball."
Davis, though, will likely not play in Saturday's scrimmage due to his lack of conditioning work. Cory Boyd, USC's second primary running back, will play, Spurrier said. Boyd, who wore a regular garnet jersey Friday night, is fully healed from a bruised hand suffered last week.
The Gamecocks will practice Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. after participating in Fan Appreciation Day festivities at the Colonial Center.
USC focused on throwing the ball in the nightly 11-on-11 challenge between the offense and defense, running the ball just once in 25 plays.
The lone carry was by Bobby Wallace, who has taken advantage of the absence of David and Boyd to improve his position on the depth chart.
"I just want to get on the field a little bit more and just show what I've got," Wallace said. "I worked hard this off season so I could help to team anyway I could."
The quarterbacks completed their first three passes - one on an outstanding catch along the left sideline by Kenny McKinley - before misfiring on six of their next seven passes.
But they recovered nicely to connect on 10 of their last 11 passes. Tight end Jared Cook made a couple of impressive catches, hooking up with Thompson and Smelley, while Syvelle Newton, Freddie Brown and Mike West had two receptions apiece.
Blake Mitchell completed 6-of-8 passes, including a completion to himself on a tipped pass. Cade Thompson, fighting to keep his backup QB job, was 3-of-6 with one interception. Chris Smelley continued to show progress by completing 5-of-7 passes.
The quarterbacks rotated every two snaps, so each one ended up with about the same number of snaps.
For the second straight night, quarterback Tommy Beecher did not take any snaps due to a sprained thumb on his left hand. The injury has benefited Thompson and Smelley.
"It's given Chris Smelley and Cade an opportunity for a few more snaps," Spurrier said.
Linebacker Curtis Rice had the interception on a tipped pass for the defense.
All three active quarterbacks (Mitchell, Thompson, Smelley) will rotate into and out of the scrimmage Saturday, Spurrier said.
In the 7-on-7 drill, Mitchell completed 5-of-6 passes, connecting on his first five throws before a miscommunication with a receiver caused a pass to fall harmlessly to the ground.
Cook - developing into an important target for the Gamecocks - made a nice grab of a pass over the middle by Smelley, snatching the ball out of the air as he maneuvered past a defender.
Cook led all USC receivers in the 7-on-7 drill with three receptions.
Smelley, who was 4-for-5, made a beautiful bullet pass to Marquise Brown on an out pattern as well. Thompson was the only quarterback who struggled in the 7-on-7, completing just two of six throws.
Spurrier got in an extra instructional session with Smelley upon the conclusion of practice, working primarily on his mechanics.
"We're trying to get some rhythm," Spurrier said. "He's always used to holding (the ball) real still, setting and slinging. We're trying to make a passer out him instead of a slinger. He's a natural passer. He throws a very catchable ball. Once he uses his legs and feet a little bit better, he'll be more accurate."
WOFFORD, FLORIDA ATLANTIC GAMES ON PPV: USC announced Friday the nonconference home games against Wofford (9/16) and Florida Atlantic (9/23) will kickoff at 7 p.m. and that both games will be televised throughout the Palmetto State via Pay-Per-View.
The Gamecocks last faced Wofford in 2001 when the Terriers served as a last-minute replacement following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. USC has won the last 13 meetings against Wofford dating back to 1918. USC and Florida Atlantic are meeting for the first time.
The Wofford game will also be available nationally on ESPN Game Plan.
2006 FALL PRACTICE COUNTDOWN
Practices Held - 8
Practices Left - 21
Next Practice - Sat., August 12, 4:15 p.m. (Scrimmage)
-- The following players were wearing yellow jerseys Friday night: Vandaral Shackleford (minor head injury - dinged), Leon Gamble, Mike Davis (foot infection), Clark Gaston (headache) and Gerrod Sinclair (knee).
-- During the kicking session which immediately followed stretching, USC worked on extra points for the first time this Fall. USC's kickers made 8-of-9 extra points. Thomas Hooper ricocheted a kick off the left post. Later, the kicks made all five attempts from 32 yards.
-- Several USC players have changed uniform numbers. Here are the players and their new numbers: Darien Stewart (#32), Greg Wright (#40), Chris Hail (#86), Thomas Hooper (#88), Captain Munnerlyn (#1), Vandaral Shackleford (#48).
-- Fan Appreciation Day will be held Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Colonial Center. The event is free and open to the public. The doors will open at 12:30 p.m.
-- Defensive end Eric Norwood had an impressive 3.75 GPA in summer school courses.
-- Spurrier said that Chris Smelley's girlfriend from Tuscaloosa, Ala. will enroll at USC.
-- Here's the play-by-play breakdown of Friday's 11-on-11 competition that lasted 25 plays. The initials of the quarterback for that particular play are in parentheses.
-- Dustin Lindsey attended Friday's practice. He is returning to USC with the hope of regaining his eligibility for the 2007 season. Lindsey, who is still recovering from oral surgery to remove four wisdom teeth, will return to practice on Aug. 24 and participate on the scout team.
1. Swing pass to Boyd (BM)
2. Pass to McKinley (BM)
3. Pass to Cook (CT)
4. Incomplete pass (CT)
5. Pass batted down (CS)
6. Incomplete pass (CS)
7. Incomplete pass (BM)
8. Pass to Freddie Brown (BM)
9. Incomplete pass (CT)
10. Interception on tipped pass (#47)(CT)
11. Pass to Marquise Brown (CS)
12. Pass to Cook (CS)
13. Sack (BM)
14. Pass complete to Mitchell on deflection (BM)
15. Bobby Wallace run (CT)
16. Pass to Freddie Brown (CT)
17. Pass to Newton (CS)
18. Sack (CS)
19. Pass to Rice (BM)
20. Pass to Newton (BM)
21. Pass to West (CT)
22. Sack (CT)
23. Pass to West (CS)
24. Tipped pass completed to Rank (CS)
25. Incomplete pass (BM).
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