Monday, September 24, 2007


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Steve Spurrier is at it again, shuffling quarterbacks at South Carolina until he finds someone who plays the ball coach's game.

The latest demotee is Blake Mitchell, a fifth-year senior who only a week ago Spurrier declared would be the one to take the 16th-ranked Gamecocks (3-1) as far as they would go this season.

But after South Carolina's undefeated start ended with No. 2 LSU's 28-16 victory, Spurrier said freshman Chris Smelley would get the start when the Gamecocks return to action this week against Mississippi State (3-1).

It's the second straight year Mitchell's been benched early in the season.

"Blake's had a lot of pressure on him" and that has led to erratic performances, Spurrier said. "So we're going to give Chris Smelley a chance right now."

Mitchell lost his starting spot in 2006 after South Carolina's 18-0 loss to Georgia. He returned late in the season and led the Gamecocks to close with three straight wins -- something that hadn't happened in 33 years.

But Mitchell hasn't looked as sharp so far this year. He was 7 of 16 for 70 yards against LSU before Smelley took over.

The loss dropped South Carolina four spots in this week's ranking and ended their six-game win streak.

Spurrier had been concerned about Mitchell's tendency to hold the ball too long, missing chances to connect with receivers on timing patterns.

Smelley did a good job, Spurrier said, in getting rid of the ball quickly enough to move the Gamecocks. Smelley was 12-of-26 for 174 yards and South Carolina's only touchdown pass Saturday, a 1-yard scoring toss to Kenny McKinley.

Spurrier didn't want to get into particulars about what Mitchell did wrong to lose his spot.

"But obviously we weren't going very far and we just decided to let Chris have a chance," Spurrier said. "He threw the ball pretty well, actually."

Spurrier also didn't say if Mitchell or third-stringer Tommy Beecher would come in if Smelley was ineffective or aggravated the sprained right shoulder hurt in the Gamecocks' opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Right now, Chris has a chance to go the distance," Spurrier said.