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Beecher gets down to business


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Beecher gets down to business

Asked if he had done anything fun over the summer, Tommy Beecher thought for a moment and mentioned a week he spent at the beach.

Other than that, it was all business for the player hoping to take his turn as South Carolina’s starting quarterback.

After being named the No. 1 quarterback coming out of spring drills, Beecher said he spent more time this summer working out, lifting and doing the things expected of the starter.

“There are certain responsibilities that the starting quarterback has - making sure people get to where they need to be and having the confidence about you that you’re the man and you need to get the job done out there,” Beecher said Friday following the Gamecocks’ first practice.

If Friday was any indication, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Beecher’s summer work could pay dividends this fall. The right-hander delivered the ball on time and on target, according to the man responsible for coaching the quarterbacks.

“Tommy’s obviously done a lot of work this summer,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “Tommy threw the ball pretty doggone well. Some of the other guys were a little errant here and there.”

While Beecher took the first-team reps, redshirt sophomore Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia, back from a four-month suspension, received the work behind Beecher.

Smelley, who was 4-2 as a starter while splitting time with Blake Mitchell in 2006, was grateful for the chance to return to the practice field and bury the memories of his five-interception performance in April’s spring game.

“I put it behind me, learned from it. Made some mistakes that I’ll try not to repeat,” Smelley said. “I feel like it definitely made me a better quarterback and I’m looking to look a lot better this fall.”

As for Garcia, the redshirt freshman showed a few signs of rust following his banishment to Tampa. During the 7-on-7 drills, Garcia threw behind freshman receiver D.L. Moore on a crossing route and was picked off by safety Chris Culliver.

A couple plays later, Garcia tried to thread a throw into traffic that was nearly intercepted.

The kickoff practice was Columbia’s version of “Friday Night Lights,” a place to see and be seen for about 2,000 fans on a muggy August night.

New USC president Harris Pastides came by to address the team, the last of about a dozen stops for the Queens, N.Y., native during his first official day in office.

Besides Pastides, USC trustee Sam Foster was in attendance with his son, Trey Foster, a member of the Gamecocks’ soccer team. First-year men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn and Gamecocks track coach Curtis Frye also were spotted roaming the sidelines.

In addition to the tailgaters watching the action from the bed of their trucks, there was a man camped inside the gate with a cooler, selling bottled waters and boiled peanuts. He was out of water after an hour; the peanuts did not go as quickly.

On the field, senior receiver Kenny McKinley said Garcia seemed like himself in the huddle.

“He’s still smooth, cool Garcia,” McKinley said. “He’s out there just having a good time.”

But McKinley said it was clear over the summer — and again Friday — who the leader is.

“Beecher looked real good. He threw some very good balls. Like I keep harping, we’re behind him 100 percent,” McKinley said. “It was good to see him come out here and keep the intensity up like he’s been having all summer and keep the confidence up.”

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