August 30, 2007

Lindsey's loss could be Geathers' gain

It looks like 85 to 90 percent is about as close as Jordin Lindsey will get in his effort to gain eligibility for Saturday's season opener.

Twenty-four hours after saying he was optimistic about Lindsey's chances for becoming eligible, head coach Steve Spurrier reversed course and told the media late Thursday afternoon that his senior defensive end "isn't going to suit up this week" while the NCAA is still considering his request for an academic waiver.

"His appeal will not be finalized," Spurrier said. "So he's out this game. I'm always disappointed when one doesn't make it academically because it doesn't happen very often around here. But he's got no else but himself to blame. We can't sit around feeling sorry for him."

Lindsey's eligibility for the upcoming season has been in question since the start of fall camp. Wednesday, Spurrier said Lindsey, USC's Compliance director and his class professor had met earlier in the day to discuss what grade Lindsey should receive in a speech class he took over the summer.

Lindsey, who had 37 tackles last season and was USC's Outstanding Defensive Player in the Liberty Bowl, was listed as a backup defensive end behind Travian Robertson on the pre-game depth chart. Freshman Clifton Geathers is the top candidate to replace Lindsey in the lineup.

"We're in good shape on defense," Spurrier said.

Spurrier's comments regarding Lindsey followed a 60-minute practice on the Bluff Road practice fields. Heavy rain and lightning prevented the Gamecocks from taking the field until after 5 p.m. The practice concluded about p.m.

As a result of the abbreviated workout, the head coach plans to do more on Friday that just a typical walk-through.

IS LADI AJIBOYE STILL UNBLOCKABLE??: Steve Spurrier described freshmen defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye as "unblockable" during spring practice when he destroyed USC's interior offensive linemen with his strength and quick moves.

The head coach has always added, though, that he hopes Ajiboye proves to be as unstoppable in a game against a live opponent than he's shown. Saturday night, we'll find out.

"I'm real excited, but at the same time I'm (still) learning," Ajiboye said. "I'm ready to play Saturday; I'm tired of scrimmaging against these guys.

Ajiboye, who enrolled at USC in January following a semester at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., is listed as the backup to Nathan Pepper at DT on this week's depth chart. Still, he expects to play a significant number of snaps against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"I think everybody is going to get they're shine on," Ajiboye said. "We're just out here competing. It doesn't matter who starts as long as we all play, make tackles and win the game. (Defensive line) Coach (Brad) Lawing said it's going to be a fast game and that we will all play, and that we can stay fresh and be more productive."

Ajiboye joined the USC in January along with three other newcomers along the defensive front - DT Jonathan Williams, DE Travian Robertson and DE Clifton Geathers. Robertson is listed as s starter at defensive end ahead of Jordin Lindsey.

"(Enrolling early) helped me a lot," Ajiboye said. "I had to get all the plays in my head and learn techniques. It also helped me get ready for the class schedule and as long as you don't miss any classes, you'll do well. It's been a big adjustment."

Like most freshmen, Ajiboye says learning his assignments and getting used to the quicker pace of the college game have proven to be the toughest things to adjust to.

"It's so fast, you have to know the plays to react quickly," Ajiboye said.

BEECHER'S MOMENT TO SHINE: Tommy Beecher's patience has finally paid off. Saturday night, he expects to see his most extensive action since joining USC two years ago as Steve Spurrier's first quarterback commitment.

"I'm excited because I've waited two years, and now it's my big shot," Beecher said. "I've been praying about it a lot. I've been facing our defense for about five weeks, so I'm ready to see a different defense."

While some people have already made Blake Mitchell the starter for the Georgia game, Beecher, like Chris Smelley, isn't buying that talk.

"If we play well during this game, there is a chance we can play more during the year," Beecher said. "We know that this is Blake's team. He's a senior and we're excited about seeing Blake come back and play."

Beecher has thrown just two passes in his career, completing both to give him a perfect 1.000 completion percentage heading into Saturday's contest. One of these connections went to Mike West for a three-yard TD against Middle Tennessee.

Based on that experience, Beecher feels a little bit more confident heading into Saturday's game.

"I'm relaxed and well prepared," Beecher said. "The coaches have done a great job. We've been running all these plays all camp l9ng. I just want to be confident. We're ready. There's a whole new confidence this year to move the ball up and down the field. I feel like I know what to do when I do go out there to play. This year, I've spent more time in the playbook and spent a lot of time watching film. I'm just getting my steps right and working with the receivers."

Of course, this moment almost never came to pass. Beecher nearly transferred after redshirting the 2005 season. But he didn't leave, and now he's glad he didn't.

"It was tough that first year being red shirted and not been showed much attention to," Beecher said. "It was a tough choice (whether to transfer). I spent a lot of hours praying about it, and I am so glad I stayed. I've had a blast this year."

Spurrier has often said Beecher and Smelley are very similar in terms of ability, which is one reason both will play Saturday night. Beecher agrees with that assessment.

"I think (Smelly) will be successful because he knows what he's doing on every play," Beecher said. "He has a good quick release. As long as he can make decisions quick, he'll be fine. He has a good strong arm. I think we're pretty similar."

CULLIVER WHERE HE WANT TO BE: Wide receiver Chris Culliver came to USC as one of the most acclaimed recruits of this past February's heralded signing class. With the season opener less than 48 hours way, Culliver feels he's made satisfactory progress in fall camp and is ready to play against Louisiana-Lafayette if called upon.

"I'm right where I want to be," Culliver said. "It's been hard trying to learn the system. The transition from defense to Spurrier's offense is a lot of (work). Just getting to know the plays and the audibles, there's a lot going on (every play)."

Culliver acknowledged he's feeling a little bit of nervousness, the same that many freshmen experience prior to their first college games. Right now, all he knows is there will be 82,000 people in the seats when the Gamecocks run out to '2001' before taking on the Ragin' Cajuns.

"There's a little anxiety, but guys have been telling me what to expect and what not to expect," Culliver said. "There's gonna be so many fans that you don't know what to do."

NOTES:

-- Spurrier said he believes Louisiana-Lafayette will blitz frequently Saturday night to try to rattle starter Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher, who also expects to see a significant amount of action. "I expect them to try to do anything within the rules to win the game," Spurrier said. "That's what we're going to do too."

-- Spurrier said freshman wide receiver Dion Lecorn "got sick during pre-season" and "got behind those other freshman receivers." As a result, it appears Lecorn is headed for a redshirt season. "Right now, he's not planning to play too much," Spurrier said.

-- USC is 66-19-4 (.764) when opening the season at home. The Gamecocks last played the season opener at Williams-Brice Stadium in 2005 when they beat UCF, 245-15, in the first game of Spurrier's tenure.


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