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Spurrier displeased with Beecher's play.


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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Steve Spurrier might have to hold off on any more high-profile comparisons for new Gamecocks quarterback Tommy Beecher.

Beecher, the fourth-year junior named Spurrier's starter in April, had a ragged scrimmage Wednesday and acknowledged he's got some work to two before leading the Gamecocks offense into the season.

"I'm discouraged right now. It's not the best feeling in the world," Beecher said. "But I've got to forget about it and get better tomorrow."

Beecher won the job a few days after spring practice ended and Spurrier subsequently said the passer had the smarts, talent and physical traits comparable to his former Florida leaders Shane Matthews and Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.

But Beecher didn't look anything like those ex-SEC stars Wednesday night.

He started quickly, thrilling a hopeful crowd of 5,000 people by leading a scoring drive on his first series. A single trumpeter broke into the Gamecock fight song after sophomore tailback Brian Maddox went over for the 2-yard touchdown.

After that, though, the musician might've played the dreaded, sitcom, "Wah-waaah," signaling problems ahead.

Beecher ended the 72-play scrimmage 15 of 30 for 123 yards. He had a pass picked off and returned for a touchdown by Chris Hail.

"It was obviously a pretty rough night for me," Beecher said. "I got to get better. I've got to make better decisions. A night like tonight just shows that I've got a long way to go."

There's not much time left. South Carolina kicks off the college football season on Thursday night, Aug. 28, against what should be an improved North Carolina State team in the second season with coach Tom O'Brien.

"Overall, it was a very sloppy offensive performance," Spurrier said. "Our quarterbacks and receivers didn't play very well. Hopefully, we can get better."

Beecher's still got the starting job. His backup, Chris Smelley, was 5 of 10 and threw TD passes to end both his series. Reserve quarterback Zac Brindise was the only other quarterback to get a snap.

The scrimmage was mostly for the Gamecocks' younger players, so starters like record-setting receiver Kenny McKinley and tailback Mike Davis did not see action.

Spurrier said Beecher, who has never started a game and thrown just 25 passes in college, has not had to make many decisions under pressure. "That's why we left him out there and let him struggle," the coach said. "We'll see if he can learn from it and go from there."

Even Beecher's lone touchdown pass to Jason Barnes that ended the scrimmage did not go according to plan, Spurrier said.

"That was just a guy running down the field and (Beecher) decided to throw it at him," Spurrier said, chuckling. "It is what it is right now and not very pretty."

Beecher was often under pressure from Gamecock defenders. Several of his long throws were off the mark. Others were placed out of reach of South Carolina defenders.

Beecher spent too much time scrambling around and not getting rid of the ball. In the Southeastern Conference, that won't work, Spurrier said.

Still, the coach said mistakes were to be expected. "That's why we do this. We didn't want to be perfect tonight," Spurrier said. "It's probably good for Tommy. He needs to understand that he hasn't done much yet."

Beecher said the scrimmage performance belies what he considered a strong summer camp. He vowed to be ready when the Wolfpack come to Williams-Brice Stadium.

"I take full responsibility. I'll get better tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and we'll be ready for NC State," Beecher said.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 081508

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