March 21, 2008

Lecorn Reinstated, Works Out On First Day

Dion Lecorn is back.

The sophomore wide receiver from Ocala, Fla., indefinitely suspended following his recent arrest on the charge of simple possession of marijuana, has been reinstated to the South Carolina football team and participated in Friday afternoon's initial spring workout.

"Dion was running well," Spurrier said. "He tested negative for marijuana, both he and the other kid that was with him. We'll see what happens with his trial. Right now, he's been cleared to practice."

Lecorn, USC's second leading receiver last season with 27 receptions for 315 yards and three touchdowns, appeared in Cayce court on Thursday morning and requested a jury trial.

Redshirt freshman Matt Clements, who was suspended along with Lecorn, was also reinstated to the team. The return of Lecorn and Clements means the only players still under suspension are DB Carlos Thomas and walk-on DB Mike Newton.

Spurrier said he expects Thomas, who started seven games last season and has made 20 career starts, will be reinstated to the team next week. Thomas is a senior in 2008.

Friday's opening workout was conducted in front of several hundred fans under sunny skies with a steady wind.

"It a decent first spring practice," Spurrier said. "The weather was beautiful and the guys were jumping around pretty well. I think we made a little progress."

USC will practice again Saturday at 10 a.m.

Friday's workout was the first in the three-way quarterback battle between redshirt sophomore Chris Smelley, redshirt junior Tommy Beecher and redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia. Who prevailed on the first day? Spurrier gave the nod to Beecher, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 175 yards last season.

"I thought Beecher threw the ball a little sharper," Spurrier said. "Chris Smelley still has a little bit of a sore shoulder. He had some surgery in January, but it's not too bad. Stephen threw a few good one here and there, but he has to work on his timing. He hasn't really played much. But he's coming around, though. They all did some good things."

Garcia must sit out one practice for missing two many classes. Spurrier said that would occur "somewhere in the middle of spring ball." He added that one or two other unidentified players would have to sit out as well.

Spurrier remarked recently on the Gamecock Club tour that USC's team speed has improved over last season. Friday's two-hour session reinforced that opinion for him.

"Our team speed is pretty good," Spurrier said. "In fact, it's very good. We just need to play fast when the games come. If we do that, it will help us a lot."

Spurrier confirmed that Eric Norwood, who led USC in sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (19.5) last season, has moved to outside linebacker. Cliff Matthews has returned to defensive end, the position he played last season before shifting to linebacker.

"I think (outside linebacker) will be a real good position for Eric," Spurrier said. "He's better standing up and rushing the pass is, obviously, what he does very well. But he can cover some guys if need be."

Jasper Brinkley dressed out on Friday and participated in the drills, but will remain on the sidelines when USC starts scrimmaging next week, Spurrier said. He'll avoid contact to protect his knee.

Spurrier has pledged to take a more active role with the offensive line this spring and he took the first step towards fulfilling that promise on Friday.

"I'll watch the tape with them (Saturday)," Spurrier said. "I'm not sure if we're doing our blocking assignments correctly. I'm just trying to help out. Obviously, our line hasn't played all that well. We know all that. Coach Hunt is trying as hard as he can to get them to play. We just have to coach the heck out of them. We have some big, strong guys who can play. We just have to coach better."

The first team offensive line consisted of LT Hutch Eckerson, LG Lemuel Jeanpierre, C Garrett Anderson, RG Heath Batchelor and RT Justin Sorensen.

Jamon Meredith, who started all 12 games at left tackle last season, must sit out the first two games of the 2008 season as a condition of the NCAA granting his waiver for a medical hardship for the 2004 season.

If Friday's workout is any indication, Meredith will likely play a reduced role this spring as the coaching staff tries to prepare the younger players for duty.

Spurrier has high expectations for Meredith, who will be a fifth year senior in 2008. He has started 18 consecutive games at left tackle.

"Jamon Meredith should be an all-conference player this year if he'll play with great effort," Spurrier said. "We just have to get it out of him."

A significant portion of Friday's practice was devoted to special teams.

WINFIELD'S SPEED PAYS OFF: There's no question who the fastest linebacker on the field was for USC Friday afternoon - redshirt freshman Alonzo Winfield.

Winfield, who's listed at 6-foot-0, 218 pounds, caused a sensation recently by running a 4.38 in the 40 yard dash in winter testing, a lightning fast speed for a linebacker. Winfield credits his redshirt season and USC's stellar strength and conditioning program for helping him get faster.

"I'm just trying to use that speed on the field," Winfield said. "Right now, I'm trying to put on some weight and trying to earn some playing time. The redshirt year helped me out a lot. I got a lot stronger and faster. It was tough watching, but I knew it would help me in the long run. The weight program here is a lot more intense than high school. I've probably put on about 20 pounds. That's helped."

Winfield acknowledged he was a bit surprised when he learned he had run the 40 in less than 4.4 seconds.

"I thought I had run it slower (than 4.38)," said Winfield, who worked Friday at second team outside linebacker behind Gerrod Sinclair. "I thought it was 4.4 or 4.5. Hopefully, my speed will get me some playing time. It's real close battle between myself and Gerrod. We have a lot of good players playing linebacker."

Winfield, who starred at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., initially committed to Tennessee during the recruiting process, but switched to USC soon after visiting Columbia.

"I committed to Tennessee, but it was too far away," Winfield said. "Plus, I liked the coaches here better and I liked the environment better. Coach Spurrier is great."

YOUNG MUM ON INCIDENT: Guard Kevin Young was reluctant to discuss a recent incident in Five Points that has resulted in a SLED investigation of brutality by the Columbia Police Department. Young alleges he was roughed up by the officers as they tried to break up a fight between himself and another man.

"I'm not going to talk about that today," Young said. "I'm just trying to focus on spring (practice), get everything right this year and try to get on the field. I want to get healthy and get some playing time."

Young, entering his third year with the program, worked at right guard behind Heath Batchelor in Friday's opening session. Young has been hampered by injuries in each of his first two seasons. In 2006, he underwent shoulder surgery as a true freshman and was sidelined for most of the season.

He was slated to make his first collegiate start against Georgia last season, but suffered a left ankle injury during practice when defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis fell on it during a drill and was sidelined for several weeks. He struggled when he returned to full health and didn't see any game action.

"When I get out on the practice field, I want to get my head in the right spot this time, get focused, get situated and get ready to play."

2008 SPRING PRACTICE COUNTDOWN
Practices Held - 1
Practices Left - 14
Next Practice - Sat., March 22, 10 a.m.

NOTES:

-- LB Marvin Sapp and OL Gurminder Thind were among several players wearing yellow jerseys during Friday's practice. Spurrier said Sapp is recovering from hernia surgery, while Thind is nursing a back injury. Other players wearing yellow jerseys were TE Nick Prochak (injuries from scooter accident), WR Kenny McKinley (bone spurs on toe), DL Nathan Pepper (recovering from torn knee ligaments) and TE Dustin Lindsey (recent arthroscopic surgery on knee). Pepper snapped the ball on field goals.

-- Uniform Numbers: strong safety Darian Stewart has changed from No. 32 to No. 24. Currently, two players are wearing No. 3: freshmen Charles Whitlock (WR) and Akeem Auguste (DB). "Those two number threes can fly around," Spurrier said. "They were matched up in some 1-on-1's. Those are two quick, fast freshen."

-- Rodney Paulk and Bryan Kingrey were working as the 'personal protector' in punt formation.

-- We know the 12 opponents on the 2009 schedule. USC will have seven home games against Florida Atlantic (9/19), The Citadel (10/3), Clemson (11/28), Ole Miss, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida. The Gamecocks will play five road games at North Carolina State (9/3), Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama.

-- The second team offensive line: LT Quintin Richardson, LG Pierre Andrews, C Seaver Brown, RG Kevin Young, RT Kyle Nunn.

-- Spurrier backtracked from his statement in Florence two weeks ago that RB Mike Davis would likely sit out the Sept. 27 USB game for excessive absences from class. He would say Friday that Davis would miss a nonconference game in the middle of the year. That could mean either the Sept. 20 game against Wofford or the USB contest.

-- Spurrier confirmed USC is recruiting wide receiver Tori Childers, a former standout wide receiver at Rock Hill, SC. Childers, who stands 6-foot-5, is expected to sign his paperwork next week and join the USC program in July. Childers is currently attending prep school in New Hampshire.


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