SEC: Tommy Beecher

Gamecocks preparing to play two quarterbacks

September, 9, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

What do you know? South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is talking like he might play two quarterbacks this Saturday against No. 2-ranked Georgia.

The Head Ball Coach said at his weekly press conference that he would name a starter later this week, but that there was a good chance both Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher would play against the Bulldogs. Spurrier said redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia was still not ready and didn't factor into his plans at this point.

Beecher started in the season-opening 34-0 win over North Carolina State, but threw four interceptions and hurt his shoulder. Smelley played the whole way in South Carolina's 24-17 loss to Vanderbilt last Thursday.

"I don't know how else to do it than to get both of them ready," Spurrier said of his two quarterbacks. "Whoever starts the game will have an excellent opportunity to maybe go the distance, and we'll have the other guy ready. Right now, Chris and Tommy are performing sort of evenly. Statistically, Chris is better, but we felt like Tommy potentially can do some things to give us a chance to win the game."

Spurrier said the thing both Smelley and Beecher need to do a better job of is getting rid of the football.

"You're not going to have perfect protection all day," Spurrier said.

With star receiver Kenny McKinley likely out with a pulled hamstring, the Gamecocks will look to several freshmen. Spurrier said redshirt freshmen Joe Hills and Jason Barnes will both get a chance as well as true freshman C.C. Whitlock.

South Carolina-Vandy halftime update

September, 4, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- South Carolina is 6-for-6 this season. The Gamecocks have played six quarters and have now thrown six interceptions.

Chris Smelley added to the total with two picks in the first half Thursday, as the Gamecocks managed to stagger into halftime with a 10-3 lead over Vanderbilt.

Smelley, taking over for Tommy Beecher as the Gamecocks' starter, never really found a rhythm. And a couple of his passes that weren't intercepted were dangerous throws.

Vanderbilt missed a great chance to tie the game after Darlron Spead intercepted a Smelley pass over the middle and returned it 41 yards to the South Carolina 30. The Commodores moved inside the 5, but had to kick a short field goal.

The South Carolina defense has smothered Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson, who has 18 yards rushing at the half. Nickson totaled a career-high 166 last week.

Even though the Commodores are hanging around, they likely will need to score on defense or special teams to win this game. They just haven't been able to dent the South Carolina defense.

The Gamecocks will be short-handed in the second half. Star receiver Kenny McKinley watched the second quarter in street clothes from the sideline after suffering what South Carolina officials said was a right leg injury. It looked like it might be a hamstring, because he was icing it.

Bama's OL hot, Vols' coaching not

September, 2, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

Here's a look at our first installment of "Hot and Not" in the SEC. We'll do this every week throughout the season after all of the games are played. We'll top it with that week's "En Fuego" award and end it with the dubious "Ice, Ice Baby" award:

Alabama's offensive line:
Even without star left tackle Andre Smith for much of the second half, the Crimson Tide offensive line controlled the game and reminded us all what being physical is all about. Clemson's fannies are probably still smarting.

Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson:
He brings a dimension with his ability to run the ball (166 yards in the opener) that's critical to the Vanderbilt offense.

The Auburn passing game:
The Tigers had just 28 yards passing at the end of the third quarter last Saturday in their 34-0 rout of Louisiana-Monroe.

Ole Miss running back/receiver Dexter McCluster:
He's the Rebels' version of "Slash" and he had 125 total yards last weekend. Gotta love the Wild Rebel formation.

Mississippi State's offense:
The Bulldogs' five turnovers were bad enough. But the real clincher: They didn't have a first down in the fourth quarter.

LSU's composure: The game was moved up to a 10 a.m. start and a deadly hurricane was bearing down on the Gulf Coast, but LSU never blinked and went out and took care of business.

Tommy Beecher's debut: In his first start as South Carolina's quarterback, Beecher threw four interceptions and got knocked around. He'll give way to Chris Smelley against Vanderbilt.

Kentucky's defense:
We knew the Wildcats would be stout up front defensively, but they're as talented and deep across the board on defense as they've ever been under Rich Brooks.

Georgia's luck:
The Bulldogs have already lost two of their best linemen for the season (Trinton Sturdivant and Jeff Owens) and have yet to play a game that counts.

Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson:
He played exactly the way the Tide needs him to in the opener. He managed the offense, didn't force things and made plays when they were there.

Tennessee tailback Arian Foster:
Crippling fumbles will tarnish an otherwise stellar career. He had another one against UCLA that totally changed the complexion of that game.

Tennessee's coaching staff:
Not the best start for Phillip Fulmer & Co. New offensive coordinator Dave Clawson had first-year starter Jonathan Crompton throw the ball 41 times. The defense played soft in coverage and never adjusted to UCLA's short passing game in the second half. How many touchdowns do the Vols need to give up on special teams before they hire a full-time coordinator?

Spurrier sticking with Beecher at QB

July, 11, 2008

Posted by's Chris Low

 Steve Spurrier and Tommy Beecher
 Rex Brown/Getty Images
 Coach Spurrier said Tommy Beecher has outperformed Chris Smelley this spring.

The Head Ball Coach is branching out a little bit thanks to the ever-expanding technology of the Internet.

That's right, Steve Spurrier has a brand new Web site,, and fans can access it for $49.95 for the year and $4.95 for the month. He promises South Carolina fans to bring them "closer to the game than ever before" in his latest videotaped sometime earlier this summer.

He also reiterates his belief that junior Tommy Beecher will be the Gamecocks' starting quarterback when the season begins on Aug. 28 against North Carolina State.

"If we had to play tomorrow, Tommy Beecher would be our quarterback," Spurrier said. "Tommy Beecher actually has played a little bit better in the spring than Chris Smelley and our other quarterbacks."

But in vintage Spurrier fashion, it wasn't exactly what you would call a ringing endorsement.

"Hopefully, someday we're going to have a quarterback here we can all really hang our hat on," said Spurrier, who made no mention of suspended redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia. "Tommy Beecher is going to get that opportunity first to see if he can be the quarterback of our team. He hasn't played a lot here. He has all the physical and mental abilities to do an excellent job as our quarterback here."

Beecher has attempted just 25 passes during his South Carolina career, but Spurrier felt he ran the offense much more consistently in the spring than Smelley.

Spurrier also told fans not to be too down on the offense based on the sloppiness of the spring game and promised that the 2008 Gamecocks would be better prepared, more disciplined, execute their assignments better and play with more effort.

Sounds like a coach who knows that 6-6 (or even 7-5) isn't going to play real well in Columbia this fall.

One thing to remember about Spurrier, though, is this: The guy's simply not wired to lose five and six games a year. If he doesn't think he can get it done at South Carolina, he won't need anybody to tell him that it's time to step aside. He'll do it himself.

That said, I'm on record right now that the Gamecocks win at least eight games this season.