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Patient Beecher eager for his shot


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Patient Beecher eager for his shot

New starting QB is glad he stuck around after first few rough years at USC

He arrived on the USC campus in 2005 and found himself shoved in a locker and forgotten. He entertained thoughts of transferring.

He often wondered if he would ever be relevant, if he would ever get a chance to flash the million-dollar arm that had so intrigued the coach who seemed to have forgotten his name.

Then he threw three interceptions during April s spring game, part of an eight-interception performance by USC quarterbacks, leading national pundits to turn many a colorful phrase in describing the team s supposedly moribund offense.

Lost amid the varied witticisms, visible only in the darkness of a film room, was a revelation:

Maybe, just maybe, Tommy Beecher could be something special.

The redshirt junior was in the middle of a Pilates class Thursday when USC coach Steve Spurrier stated unequivocally that Beecher would be the trigger man for the 2008 Gamecocks.

I m trying to get some abs, but it s not working, Beecher said with a laugh during Saturday s Ladies Clinic at the Colonial Center. I didn t hear him say it, but I ve heard good things about it. A lot of people have been wishing me good luck.

In the wake of the spring game, Spurrier had said he would take his time in deciding who the No. 1 quarterback would be entering fall practice. Two days later, he called Beecher to his office and handed him the keys to the offense.

He let me know he was going to announce me as the starter and from that point on, I ve kind of run with it, Beecher said. I ve done a lot of work during the summer, and I m looking forward to it.

Beecher arrived in Columbia in 2005 after a senior season at Concord (N.C.) High, where he passed for 3,600 yards and 40 touchdowns en route to the Class 3A state championship.

In 29 years as a head coach, I have never played against or had a more talented quarterback than Tommy, said E.Z. Smith, Beecher s coach at the time. He epitomizes what a student-athlete is all about.

At USC, though, the 6-foot-1, 199-pound newcomer needed some seasoning. He immediately was redshirted. Then, during the next two seasons, he sat in the shadows while USC exhausted a litany of other prospects at the position.

The arrival of Chris Smelley in 2006 was especially unnerving. The more highly touted newcomer immediately stepped in front of Beecher on the depth chart.

Perhaps it was time to move on.

It was tough for me, coming in here and redshirting, watching other guys play, Beecher said. Actually, I went and visited some schools to see if they were an option, but something told me to stay here.

Not long after deciding to stay put another touted player, Stephen Garcia, was added into mix.

Beecher stayed the course, hitting the books (he holds a 3.7 GPA), studying film and working out.

He played sparingly while Smelley usurped Blake Mitchell and Garcia became a media and fan favorite.

But finally, in April, Beecher brainy, strong and mobile at 6-feet-2 and 227 pounds could no longer be ignored.

He s the first-string quarterback and we re going to do all we can to help him, Spurrier said this week. Barring injury, he should go the distance, whatever it takes.

About time.

There was a reason I was here the whole time, I felt, Beecher said. I just had to wait a little longer than most people and, you know, shoot, I have two more years.

I ve learned coach Spurrier s offense these last three years and a lot of people would say now is a good time for someone to step in and play, Beecher concluded. I m excited. Anxious. ... The door is open for me to play now.

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