August 3, 2008

Case Closed: LeCorn Focused On Football

Dion LeCorn was in position.

He was a freshman receiver starting in Steve Spurrier's pass-happy offense, usually something that's about as hard to break into as Rosie O' Donnell's diet plan.

He was earning more and more looks, catches and yards every game, despite the team not doing so great around him. He was entrenched, over a deep crop of receivers who were good but had not taken advantage of its opportunities.

And then it was almost thrown completely away.

"Time to get everything focused, getting that out of the way," LeCorn said after Saturday's practice, South Carolina's second of the pre-season. "I'm just glad it's all taken care of."

LeCorn and fellow receiver Matt Clements were arrested in February, becoming two more Gamecock athletes in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their crime was sitting in a parked car late at night with another friend not part of the program and getting caught with a small amount of marijuana.

LeCorn spent a night in jail while Clements was found to have another outstanding warrant from his Florida hometown. Although the rising sophomore protested his innocence, the circumstances and the recent troubles of other teammates painted him with a black eye.

"It was tough," LeCorn said. "I just had to stay focused."

LeCorn kept recalling the glorious memories of his freshman year when he broke into the starting lineup on the opposite side of superstar Kenny McKinley. After a few failed experiments didn't produce a definite No. 2 guy, LeCorn got his shot and responded with six starts, 27 catches, 315 yards and three touchdowns; he had 16 receptions for 215 yards and two TDs over the final three games.

LeCorn passed a drug test soon after the arrest and got the news he was waiting for last week. The charges were dropped, clearing his name and his spot on the depth chart.

The grin he wore after Saturday's practice more than made up for the lack of light caused by an impending thunderstorm.

"So glad to have that behind me," he said. "I'm going to try my hardest to help the team."

LeCorn, with a new spelling to his name -- he claimed he never read any newspaper or Web site stories last year, so he never noticed the incorrect "Lecorn" that was used dozens of times -- hasn't taken his No. 2 role for granted.

While most everyone knows McKinley will start on Aug. 28 and stay there (receivers who are a stone's throw from most of the school's career records tend to stick), the No. 2 spot can always be considered open.

So while he didn't technically have to risk himself, there was LeCorn on Saturday, threading his way between four white jerseys to haul in a bullet from Tommy Beecher. Got to keep the reputation up, you see.

"There were a couple around me, but I was focused," he said with a modest smile.

The competition should be fierce, and no one's saying there won't be more than McKinley and LeCorn on the field at one time. With the Gamecocks' exceptionally deep rotation of receivers and tight ends, there could be several that see extensive playing time in 2008.

Which is fine with LeCorn -- but only after he's beaten out. And that's not part of his agenda.

"They're looking real good.," he said of USC's youngest receivers. "Young guys, lot of potential. We all help each other out, but we're all trying to get out there. I try to teach them as much as I can."

During the early part of camp, guys like C.C. Whitlock and D.L. Moore have been catching everything thrown their way, which could give Spurrier and his coaches a few more options to choose from when making
out the season's depth chart. LeCorn's comfortable with that, but doesn't plan to just step aside.

It seems light years away from the last time LeCorn was in the public eye due to the arrest and, before that, as one of the long faces after USC's crushing season-ending loss to Clemson.

It was then that LeCorn slumped in his chair, twisting his hands, telling the world he didn't want to feel that way any more. That was backed up on Saturday. All he really had to do was make an effort at catching some of those passes, which during the first few days of camp, are all over the place.

But he was hauling them in anyway.

"Yeah, time to get my focus on stuff out there," he said. "Whatever I can do. We're all just hoping to get better."

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