August 10, 2007

Garcia Ready To Go On Full Display

Seven months after his heralded arrival on the USC campus, South Carolina fans will finally get their first look at rocket-armed freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia in a helmet and full pads Saturday when the Gamecocks conduct their first scrimmage of fall camp at Williams Brice Stadium

USC will start practice at 4 p.m., with the scrimmage scheduled to kickoff at 5 p.m. Fans are invited to attend. The gates at Williams-Brice Stadium will open at 4 p.m. Concessions stands will be open on the West side.

The scrimmage will involve mostly USC's younger players, including this year's freshman class that was ranked No. 6 in the nation by Rivals. Unquestionably, much of the focus of the fans will be on Garcia.

"If the fans want to see what Garcia looks like, this will be his opportunity to pitch it around a little bit," Spurrier said. "I've seen out (on the practice fields) so I have an idea how he may do. If he has time and the guy's open, he'll hit him. If he has no protection and not many guys open., he'll struggle."

Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher should also receive a lot of snaps as well.

Garcia graduated in December from Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fla. after a stellar prep career that saw him throw for a county record 8,081 yards and 83 touchdowns.

He enrolled at USC in January hoping to participate in spring practice and get a jump on his college career. But a pair of arrests derailed those plans, leading to his suspension from the football team for the entire duration of spring practice.

Garcia was reinstated to the football team the day after the spring game and, down to his last strike in the eyes of Spurrier, has been on his best behavior since then.

Garcia has displayed a strong arm since fall camp started but is still No. 4 on the depth chart behind starter Blake Mitchell and backups Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher.

But other heralded first-year players like wide receivers Chris Culliver and Jason Barnes, running back Brian Maddox, and middle linebacker Melvin Ingram should also have an opportunity to show off their abilities to Gamecock fans.

"We'll let most of the young guys play and we'll see what happens," Spurrier said. "Culliver was flying around (Friday). It will be interesting to see which one of those freshmen receivers can make a catch or two."

Barnes, who played in a high-octane passing attack at Independence High School, has been possibly the most impressive young wide receiver in camp.

WALLACE STILL COMPETING FOR PLAYING TIME: Bobby Wallace saw his number of carries drop from 41 in 2005 to five in 2006 as a result Cory Boyd's return to the lineup. Wallace says he's still battling Boyd and Mike Davis for playing time.

"Everyone is competing everyday out here in this heat," Wallace said. "No one is slacking off. Everyone's trying to get that starting spot. I'm going to keep working hard and do what I'm doing. Hopefully once they stick me out there, I'll show them what I got."

Wallace missed the first several practices because he was on academic suspension. But Wallace is now academically eligible to play in the fall and hopes to make a greater impact then he did last season.

"It really wasn't an issue, but I was just waiting on my grades to come in," Wallace said. "But everything is cool now and I'm cleared."

Wallace has worked hard to gain weight in order to withstand the pounding of SEC defenses. He weighed 185 pounds two years ago when he arrived on the USC campus for the first time following a stellar career at Conway High School in which he rushed for the incredible total of 5,151 yards and 55 TD's.

Now he weighs 202 pounds, two pounds over the desired weight of USC running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

"My strength and weight have been the biggest struggle," Wallace said. "I was at 185 and Coach Gillespe wanted me at 200. My main goal is getting stronger and bigger."

Wallace, a junior, enters the 2007 season with 242 rushing yards on 46 career attempts, an average of 5.3 yards per rush, and 10 career receptions. The biggest play of his career came last season when he scampered 88 yards for his first career touchdown in the waning minutes against Middle Tennessee.

JEANPIERRE ADJUSTING TO OFFENSIVE LINE: Lemuel Jeanpierre made headlines in April with his move from the defensive line to the offensive towards the end of spring practice. With the new crop of defensive linemen arriving, Steve Spurrier convinced Jeanpierre that he could help the team more, and gain more playing time in the process, if he switched over to provide depth to a struggling offensive line. He agreed.

"Coach Spurrier approached me when I was working out," Jeanopierre recalled. "He said, 'I'm thinking about getting you more playing time and switch you over to give you a shot.' I thought it over, talked to Coach Nix, Coach Smith, my parents, my friends and they all said if it helps out the team and you get more playing time go out and go for it. Coach Spurrier knows football, so it will work out for the best."

After the move was initially announced, Spurrier said something shattering - he predicted Jeanpierre, who has never missed a single workout in his two years with the Gamecocks, would earn a starting job by the opening game of the season. He's currently backing up James Thompson at right guard.

"I've never played offensive line before," Jeanpierre said. "When I was on defense, I could just play around. But the offensive line has to be more precise and involves more blocking. I have to make sure I get (to the right spot) and take the right steps."

Jeanpierre says there quite a bit of difference between the approaches offensive and defensive linemen take in terms of scheming and responsibilities.

"I'm learning what to anticipate and who to block," Jeanpierre said. "I'm getting the concepts pretty good but it's the thinking on the go. There's audibles, recognizing the defense, and where they're going.

"On defense, it's just line up in this set and hit that gap. This is more 'get there, see where the defense is, where the safety is, where the linebacker is and pick one out.' When you look at it on paper it's simple but when you're right there it all goes so quick and you have to pick one."

Jeanpierre was quickly embraced by the "family' of USC offensive linemen, many of whom have shared the responsibility of teaching him the fundamentals.

"Everybody pitched in whenever they could. They mostly helped me in my technique because I really didn't know anything," Jeanpierre said.

STAFFORD STILL ENJOYING THE RIDE: Lanard Stafford joined the USC football program in the spring of 2004 as a walk-on. About a year later, a conversation with Steve Spurrier during a early-morning winter conditioning workout changed his life. Spurrier asked Stafford, then buried on the depth chart as a lineman, to move to fullback.

Stafford agreed to make the move, and his career has taken off since. He performed so well both on the field and in the classroom that Spurrier awarded him with a scholarship prior to the 2005 season.

Stafford started eight games last season a fullback, serving primarily as the lead blocker for Cory Boyd and Mike Davis. He didn't get a rushing attempt by caught three passes in the final two games for 32 yards. Two receptions came against Houston in the Liberty Bowl.

With the entire backfield returning, Stafford looks forward to another season of blocking for Boyd and Davis.

"They're so good that it makes my job a lot easier," Stafford said. "I think we will be pretty successful since we have the same backfield as last year. We ust have to put for the effort everyday."

Stafford says he's not frustrated at all by his lack of carries in his career. Since Spurrier awarded him with a scholarship two years ago, he's stuck to what he does best - blocking.

"In high school I just played the offensive line and defensive line," Stafford said. "I never touched the ball. But coach Spurrier came and everything changed. He gave me a chance to block some and he stuck with me. All the coaches and players stuck with me until I got used to the position."

Practices Held - 8
Practices Left - 21
Next Practice - Sat., Aug. 11, 4:30 p.m. (Open Scrimmage)


-- Jordin Lindsey's academic status is still pending. Some players took final exams Friday morning, the final day of the second session of summer school. USC had been scheduled to practice at 9:30 a.m. on Friday but that workout was cancelled. Spurrier said USC will likely add a second practice to another day.

-- Cornerback Mike West will graduate Saturday morning with a bachelor's degree in retail management during ceremonies at the Colonial Center. He intends to take one graduate class in the fall during his final semester at USC.

-- USC spokeman Steve Fink said "some concession stands" will be open on the West side of Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday for fame attending the scrimmage.

-- Former USC defensive back Sam Pope has been granted his release by USC and will reportedly transfer to Jacksonville State in Jacksonville, Fla. Yesterday, Pope was headed to Hampton University in Norfolk, Va. but that move apparently hit a snag. Ironically, the nickname of Jacksonville State is also the Gamecocks.

-- Spurrier described the status of the three interior positions along the offensive line as "wide open." Spurruer added that "James Thompson has done well." If USC had a game tomorrow, the starting OL would be LT James Meredith, LG Garrett Anderson or Kevin Young, C William Brown, RG James Thompson and RT Justin Sorensen.

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