At the rate he's going, Chris Smelley won't just be the backup quarterback come opening night, he'll be the starter too.
That's illogical, of course, given the fact Blake Mitchell is well entrenched as the starter. But there's no mistaking the fact that Smelley's grip on the No. 2 job is growing stronger by the day.
Smelley followed up his outstanding performance in Saturday's scrimmage with another impressive outing, completing 10 of 16 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown Wednesday night in a two-hour closed scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"He's probably closing in on the second spot," Spurrier acknowledged after the scrimmage. "He just needs to learn a lot. When Chris is out there the ball seems to go up and down the field."
Smelley fired a 45-yard touchdown pass to freshman Moe Brown, who is emerging as a solid candidate to crack the wide receiver rotation.
By his performance over the first half of fall camp, Smelley is defying the common perception that Spurrier's offense is too complex for a first-year player to grasp easily. Most of Spurrier's greatest quarterbacks at Florida redshirted for a season.
Smelly, though, is on target to see significant playing time this season.
"I'm just trying to become the best quarterback I can be," Smelley said. "I've had two pretty good scrimmages out here. The ball has been finding some receivers. The offensive line has been giving me great protection. It's been working well. I'm probably ahead in terms of knowing the offense than I thought I would be. Things are going well."
Mitchell was 9-for-15 for 126 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a pair of touchdown tosses to Syvelle Newton (4 yards; 16 yards).
"Blake had a very good scrimmage," Spurrier said. "It was mostly young guys going at it."
Newton, nearing the 100 percent healthy mark, finished with a scrimmage-high four receptions for 63 yards. He did not take any snaps at quarterback.
"Syvelle had a good night," Spurrier said. "He ran some good routes and we were able to get him the ball a little bit. He caught some passes. I think he's pretty similar to last year."
Cade Thompson and Tommy Beecher were a combined 7-for-16 for 84 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Beecher had touchdown passes to freshman tight end Foxy Foxworth (10 yards) and freshman Chris Hail (25 yards).
"Cade struggled again tonight," Spurrier said. "When he has a lot of pressure on him it seems like he gets stuck back there and he struggles."
The leader of the Gamecocks' defense conceded that the offense may have gotten the better of the play Wednesday night.
"The offense did a lot of great things," senior cornerback Fred Bennett said. "(The defense) still has room to improve. We're just coming out here day-by-day trying to get better. We know we have to work on everything."
Cory Boyd led all rushers with 45 yards on six carries. He left the scrimmage, though, after taking a hard hit to the face just below the nose. The injury is not considered serious.
Mike Davis had 42 yards in seven carries, a sign he is now fully recovered from his severe foot infection that kept him on the sidelines for the first week of practice.
"Mike Davis ran well. He was strong," Spurrier said. "Cory got banged up on one hard collision but I think that was the only injury he had. He should be fine."
Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix says he saw some good things from the defense Wednesday night.
"We're still making some mistakes but we're making progress," Nix said. "We don't have to be ready until August 31st. It looks like we're headed in the right direction. It looks like we're smarter than we were a year ago and we're playing a little faster. Of course, we all expect to be better and we'd be disappointed if we weren't better."
Blake Mitchell - 9/15, 2 TD, 2 INT, 126 yards
Cade Thompson - 4/10, 1 INT, 40 yards
Chris Smelley - 10/16, 1 TD, 181 yards
Tommy Beecher - 3/6, 2 TD, 44 yards
Mike Davis - 7 for 42 yards
Cory Boyd - 6 for 45 yards
Lanard Stafford - 1 for 2 yards
Blake Mitchell - 1 for (-4)
Bobby Wallace - 7 for 9 yards, 1 TD
Cody Lucas - 4 for 20 yards
Taylor Rank - 1 for (-6)
Bryan Kingery - 5 for (-3)
Chris Smelley - 3 for (-15)
Cade Thompson - 3 for (-25)
Sidney Rice - 2 for 62
Syvelle Newton - 4 for 63, 2 TD
Taylor Rank - 1 for 15
Moe Brown - 1 for 45, 1 TD
David Laggis - 2 for 15
Mike Davis - 1 for 10
Jared Cook - 2 for 38
Foxy Foxworth - 1 for 10, 1 TD
Freddie Brown - 2 for 32
Robert Pavlovic - 2 for 14
Kenny McKinley - 1 for 18
Bobby Wallace - 1 for 8
Jamal Hayes - 1 for 8
Alex McGrath - 1 for 9
Bryan Kingery - 1 for 8
Chris Hail - 3 for 36, 1 TD
2006 FALL PRACTICE COUNTDOWN
Practices Held - 14
Practices Left - 15
Next Practice - Thur., Aug. 17, 7:30 p.m. (Closed)
-- USC went through a two-hour workout Wednesday morning before conducting the scrimmage.
-- Running back Taylor Rank returned to practice Wednesday morning after sitting out two days with a left thigh injury. Tight end Andy Boyd (right shoulder), wide receiver Mike West (left hamstring) and safety Nick Prochak (right hamstring) are still out. Ty Erving is expected to rejoin the team Thursday after attending the funeral of a close friend.
-- Fred Bennett said he was "very impressed" with USC's corp of young defensive backs like Captain Munnerlyn, Darian Stewart and Emanuel Cook. "They have showed me they can play," Bennett said. "They just have to get their confidence up."
-- Tyrone Nix said freshman defensive back Emanuel Cook was the best tackler on defense. Cook ran with the first-team defense during Wednesday's scrimmage. "A lot of our young guys are inconsistent," Nix said. "We just have to keep coaching them up and putting them in position to make plays."
-- Nix credited several factors for the improved defensive play this fall: smarter coaching, the players playing smarter and with more effort. "We do those things we should be a better defense," Nix said.
-- Spurrier said USC will likely have one more scrimmage Tuesday night at Williams-Brice Stadium. "We're trying to find out who our best players are," Spurrier said. "We have one more dress rehearsal."
-- Spurrier said Ryan Succop made all of his kicks. "We didn't try any long field goals," Spurrier said. "Ryan has been kicking well. If we had to play tomorrow, Ryan would mostly likely do all the kicking."
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