Newton will start at quarterback for Gamecocks

Updated: September 14, 2006, 9:12 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Steve Spurrier selected experience over youth Thursday night, choosing senior Syvelle Newton to start at quarterback over freshman Chris Smelley.

Newton has been a Spurrier favorite the past two seasons with the coach using him at quarterback, tailback and receiver last year until Newton tore his Achilles tendon.

Newton takes over for Blake Mitchell, who was arrested on a misdemeanor simple assault charge and suspended from the team Wednesday. "He's played a lot of ball and he deserves to play quarterback," Spurrier said about Newton on his call-in radio show. "He's got the chance to go the distance. He's got the chance to play all year. We're going to see what he can do in there."

Spurrier had said even without Mitchell's problems, the starter the past two years would not have played much Saturday night against Wofford because of South Carolina's struggling attack. The Gamecocks lost 18-0 to No. 10 Georgia, only the second shutout hung on Spurrier in 17 seasons as a college head coach.

The Gamecocks (1-1) are 99th nationally in total offense this year. They've got one touchdown -- and that came on a trick play when Newton lined up as a receiver and threw to tailback Cory Boyd.

Spurrier kept the suspense going after Thursday's practice, holding off the announcement of a starter until his show. "We're trying to get our ratings up," Spurrier told reporters.

Mitchell has completed nearly 64 percent of his throws this year. But he had the Gamecocks on Georgia's 1 with a chance to get back in the game and couldn't score.

"I think he's played so-so," Spurrier said this week. "Not great, not terrible."

Newton was the first player Spurrier has ever used at all three skill positions in one game. And Newton made Spurrier look like a genius, passing for two touchdowns and running for a third in the Gamecocks' 35-28 win over Vanderbilt. But Newton injured himself on his touchdown run and missed the final five games of the season.

Spurrier was as angry as he's ever been after last week's game, decrying a lack of effort out of players he expected more from.

Newton is part of seven new starters on offense this week.

A police report said Mitchell punched a man outside a local bar early Wednesday morning. He turned himself in to police and was eventually released.

"It was very unlike him personality-wise getting in the scuffle," Spurrier said Thursday. "We'll wait and see where the facts come out before we make any permanent decisions on him."

Mitchell has a court appearance scheduled Friday to enter a plea, his attorney Neal Lourie said.

Spurrier says Mitchell is part of the team, but he won't practice or play. Spurrier said Mitchell is invited to wear his uniform on the sideline this week.

"I don't know if he'll want to, though," Spurrier said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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