0

No starting QB drama for Gamecocks this week

COLUMBIA, S.C. - No tryouts. No controversy. No drama. Steve Spurrier has a starting quarterback at South Carolina - at least for this week.

For more than a month, Spurrier has searched for a passer to build up South Carolina's struggling offense. He's swapped out QBs, held weeklong practice auditions and spent extra time showing off his Heisman Trophy-winning form in fixing problems.

But the head ball coach known for yanking quarterbacks may have found the gem he's wanted for the Gamecocks (4-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) in sophomore Chris Smelley, particularly after his breakout performance in rallying South Carolina from 11-points down to defeat Ole Miss 31-24 last Saturday.

'It's helpful if you have one quarterback and everybody knows who's going to be your quarterback,' Spurrier said Tuesday.

Right now, that's Smelley, a sophomore from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who has started 11 games overall the past two seasons with mixed reviews.

Smelley played heroically in a win over against No. 8 Kentucky last season or a 14-7 loss to highly ranked Georgia last month. However, Smelley was also the starter in the Gamecocks' two straight losses to Vanderbilt, something that despite the Commodores 5-0 start this year,

hasn't sat well with some South Carolina fans.

No matter, win or lose, Spurrier would typically bemoan his team's lost offensive chances and his quarterbacks' inability to go downfield. Even this season, Smelley's started the past five games and yet has had to endure numerous auditions with backups Stephen Garcia and Tommy Beecher before begrudgingly getting Spurrier's nod a couple of days before kickoff.

There'll be no similar scenes this week heading into a game at Kentucky.

Smelley threw for a career-high 327 yards and tied his career-best with three TD passes in the Ole Miss win. He hit the longest pass of his short college career, a 63-yard hookup with tight end Jared Cook. The performance earned Smelley the Southeastern Conference's player of the week on offense.

'Yeah, I felt pretty good out there,' Smelley said after the game. Spurrier has not yet allowed Smelley to meet with the media this week.

Spurrier's not yet ready to hand the keys to the 'Cock-'n-Fire' offense to Smelley and watch scoreboards blow their fuses with all the upcoming points.

'No, no, I'm not at that place yet,' Spurrier said.