S. Carolina QBs Smelley and Beecher will both play, WR McKinley doubtful
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Steve Spurrier's newest strategy for No. 2 Georgia: Two quarterbacks and a bunch of young receivers.
Spurrier added he'd call on several of the Gamecocks' untested wideouts in the increasingly likely event Kenny McKinley, the record-setting receiver and the offense's best player, would miss the game because of a right hamstring pull.
"I would say he's doubtful," Spurrier said Tuesday. "When you pull a hamstring like he did, it's usually a two-to-three week deal. So I don't know."
Spurrier also apparently couldn't decide on a quarterback. Then again, he hasn't had a lot to go on this season.
Beecher, a junior, was named the starter in the spring and opened against North Carolina State. It was a disastrous debut as Beecher threw four interceptions before injuries forced him to the sidelines.
Smelley came on to lead South Carolina to three scoring drives in the 34-0 victory.
So, Smelley started the following week against Vanderbilt as the Gamecocks looked to wipe away memories of last season's unexpected loss to the Commodores. Instead, Smelley threw two interceptions and South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) struggled to move the ball when it mattered most in Vandy's 24-17 win.
McKinley caught that game's first scoring pass. Soon, he was on the sidelines in street clothes with ice taped to his right thigh.
McKinley, who grew up in Mableton, Ga., says he wants to play since it's the senior's last game with Georgia. He vowed to do all treatments and rehab exercises to get him ready for Saturday's game.
McKinley is eight receptions from the school's all-time record.
Without McKinley, Spurrier says sophomores Joe Hills and Jason Barnes, and freshman C.C. Whitlock would get more involved. Hills will start in some of South Carolina's multiple receiver formations, Spurrier said.
Hills and Barnes were part of Spurrier's 2007 recruiting class, a group possessing such speed and potential, some recruiting experts compared them to the top classes Spurrier brought in at Florida.
So far, only fellow sophomore Dion LeCorn has been a regular contributor, giving Gamecock quarterbacks an option when McKinley is triple covered.
Spurrier acknowledged frustration because his receivers hadn't shown more in their second seasons. But he and his staff go by what they see each practice.
"If they can get open and catch the ball, they'll be starters here," Spurrier said. "But when they don't get open and don't catch very many balls in practice, it's just hard to put them out there."
If McKinley doesn't play, 6-foot-5 tight end Jared Cook looks to be South Carolina's main option. He had a career game against Vanderbilt with eight catches for 111 yards.
Still, through two games, South Carolina ranks ninth in total offense and 10th in scoring offense among the SEC's 12 teams.
"We just have to get all the elements together, put them all in one box and go play," Cook said.
That has to include strong play from the quarterback.
Spurrier said Beecher is fully recovered from the shoulder and head injuries that caused him to miss some practice time leading up to Vanderbilt. He and Smelley have split practice reps.
Spurrier has emphasized to both they need to get rid of the ball quicker than they've been. Passers can't count on perfect protection and must weave their way out of trouble sometimes.
"So we're trying to teach our guys to have somewhere to throw it and do a better job of having a throwaway play or place to get rid of it," he said. "That's something we're going to try and do better at."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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