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April 13, 2006

Spring Practice wrap-up - offense

Quarterback Top Performer: Blake Mitchell (6-3/200) LaGrange, GA (LaGrange)
While it wasn't a perfect spring for Blake Mitchell, his performance as a whole was more than adequate. He made quicker decisions, appeared more comfortable in the pocket, showed more leadership and was noticeably bigger and stronger, indicating a productive off-season workout. His statistics in the spring game were less than impressive if one just read the box score the next day. However, he was a victim of seven drops on the day, something that can be attributed quite a bit to the poor weather. Cade Thompson came into to spring as the primary backup and a strong finish to spring drills allowed him to remain there. He needs to work very hard this summer to continue adding weight and get his body to the point where he can take the punishment that comes with playing quarterback in a vertical passing offense. Tommy Beecher had his moments as well, but ended up fourth on the depth chart at the conclusion of the spring game behind walk-on Brett Nichols.
Likely depth chart this fall: Mitchell, Thompson and Smelley
Notable *True freshman Chris Smelley will arrive this summer with high expectations from Steve Spurrier. He will get every opportunity to show he's ready to make an immediate contribution

Tailback Top Performer: Mike Davis (5-10/210) Columbia, SC (Columbia)
Mike Davis showed up for the first spring practice and served notice that he was no longer a rookie on this team. One look at him revealed a player that had worked extremely hard in the weight room and in the winter conditioning program. It didn't take him long to prove he didn't just look better physically, but also had improved as a running back. He is quicker, faster, and ran with much more determination and awareness throughout the spring than he did at any point in the 2005 season. If his work ethic continues over the summer, Davis appears poised for a breakout year in the Southeastern Conference. One reason Davis was forced to work as hard as he did in the weight room was because of the presence of Cory Boyd, who missed the entire 2005 season due to suspension. Boyd had an excellent spring in his own right, and Gamecock fans can expect to see him and Davis on the field at the same time quite a bit this season. Throw in an electrifying Bobby Wallace and the Gamecocks have three running backs who have the ability to produce when called upon by Spurrier.
Likely depth chart this fall: Davis, Boyd, Wallace, Emanuel Cook
Notable * True freshman Emanuel Cook will arrive this summer and will likely redshirt if he remains at running back.
* All indications are Taylor Rank will be transferring at the conclusion of this semester, likely 1-AA power Montana.

Tight end/Fullback Top Performer: Robert Pavlovic (6-4/241) Missassauga, ON (St. Francis Xavier)
Robert Pavlovic came out of nowhere to have a very solid spring practice. He held his own as a blocker, caught the ball with consistency and showed a surprising ability to gain yards after the catch in multiple scrimmages. Jared Cook has a much bigger upside than Pavlovic, but is stil making the transition from receiver to the tight end position. Clark Gaston acquitted himself nicely as a true freshman at the fullback spot, displaying nice hands out of the backfield and willingness to make contact with bigger defenders as a blocker. If he can add 10 pounds or so prior to the season opener and get his assignments down pat, he has a chance to earn the starting spot. To do so, he will have to beat out Lanard Stafford, someone whose primary strength is as a blocker.
Likely depth chart this fall: Tight end: Pavlovic/Cook, David Laggis
Fullback: Gaston, Stafford
Notable * Tight end David Laggis missed most of spring drills due to a wrist injury, but should be at full strength by fall camp.
* Andy Boyd should return in the fall, but it remains to be seen whether he'll play TE or on the OL.

Wide receiver Top Performer: Sidney Rice (6-4/200) Gaffney, SC (Gaffney)
Despite suffering a broken thumb that ended his spring drills early, there's no disputing Sidney Rice is the top wide receiver and best overall player currently on the Gamecock team. About the only area he could improve on was to work hard in the weight room, something it's obvious he did. The next best performer at the wide receiver spot throughout the spring was Kenny McKinley. Next to Rice, nobody was as consistent as McKinley catching the ball, and he's also emerging as a threat to make big things happen after the catch. Noah Whiteside had an up and down three weeks, but ended things on a high note with a productive spring game. Mike West is making the transition from safety to wide receiver, and has a chance to be a big part of the rotation in 2006. He's the fastest and best blocking wide receiver on the team. O.J. Murdock has the talent to be a good player for the Gamecocks, but the coaches would like to see his work ethic change considerably. Freddie Brown was quiet for much of the spring, but he rebounded to perform well in the spring game.
Likely depth chart this fall: FL - Rice, West, Murdock / SE - McKinley, Whiteside, Brown / (West or Whiteside would start in a 3-WR set)
Notable * True freshman Moe Brown has a chance to make an immediate impact.
* True freshman Captain Munnerlyn will also get a look at wide receiver in fall camp and has great speed.

Offensive line Top Performer: Chris White (6-3/315) Chester, SC (Chester)
Chris White overcame a shaky start to spring drills to eventually become the top overall performer along the offensive line. He's by far the most experience lineman on the team, and line coach John Hunt will be counting on him to provide solid leadership in his final season. Guard Thomas Coleman also had a very good spring, and will be rewarded with a scholarship very soon. Gurminder Thind is manning the left tackle spot and has emerged as one of the top pass blockers on the team. Jamon Meredith is becoming more and more comfortable with his right tackle position, and if he can add another 10 pounds or so, he has a chance to be pretty special. James Thompson was the least consistent performer of the starting offensive lineman and will need to step it up to maintain his starting role in the fall. Overall, the starters exceeded expectations this spring, but there are still a lot of question to be answered in terms of which players are capable of providing quality depth.
Likely starters this fall: LT - Thind, LG - Coleman, C - White, RG - TBD, RT - Meredith
Notable * JUCO transfer Clarence Bailey is close to finishing his academic requirements and is expected to enroll at USC in June.
* Look for four-star 2006 signees Hutch Eckerson, Garrett Anderson and Kevin Young to all get a long look once fall camp begins.

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