Spurrier tabs fifth-year senior Mitchell to face 'Dawgs Print
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Thursday, 06 September 2007 12:49
NCAAF Headline News

 COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Blake Mitchell will return to his starting quarterback spot for South Carolina against No. 11 Georgia this weekend.
Coach Steve Spurrier said after Thursday's practice Mitchell, in his fifth season with the Gamecocks (1-0), would be back under center at Sanford Stadium on Saturday evening. Mitchell missed South Carolina's opener last week, a 28-14 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, because of a one-game academic suspension he got for missing too many classes during summer school.
Freshman Chris Smelley and sophomore Tommy Beecher shared playing time against the Ragin' Cajuns, each throwing a touchdown pass in the win.
Spurrier played coy with his quarterback decision all week because he thought it might keep the Bulldogs' staff guessing a few extra days. But the ball coach had few other options heading into the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
``He's had a lot of good practices,'' Spurrier said. ``He had a lot of good games at the end of last year. He hasn't had one since the Liberty Bowl. So hopefully this will be the first.''
Mitchell, a 6-foot-3, 211-pounder from LaGrange, Ga., has started 17 of Spurrier's 25 games at South Carolina. He's thrown 27 TDs during that span compared with a combined three from Smelley and Beecher.
Add to that Smelley's injury - a sprained right shoulder that will keep him out of this week's game - and going to Mitchell seemed a no-brainer. Beecher will backup Mitchell and freshman Stephen Garcia has been moved up to third string.
It was Mitchell who led the Gamecocks to a rousing finish last season with three consecutive victories - something that hadn't happened at South Carolina in 33 years.
Mitchell led three second-half scoring drives as South Carolina wiped out a 28-14 deficit at Clemson to win the rivalry game, 31-28. He followed that up with a stellar Liberty Bowl, setting the school's postseason record with four TD passes. He threw for 323 yards and was named the game's MVP.
But Mitchell got himself in trouble this summer by violating the athletic department's class attendance policy.
It's the second straight season Mitchell's had off-the-field problems. He was briefly suspended after his arrest for his role in a fight with a bar bouncer. The charges against Mitchell were later dropped.
Mitchell was ineffective at the start of last season. Despite completing 16 of 22 passes for 156 yards against the Bulldogs last September, the Gamecocks lost 18-0. The quarterback's arrest came a few days later with Spurrier saying he planned to sit Mitchell in favor of Syvelle Newton anyway.
Mitchell got another chance late in the season. He came in for the second half against Arkansas and nearly rallied the Gamecocks to victory. Mitchell started the final four games and looked as crisp as he ever had, completing better than 69 percent of his throws with 1,254 yards and eight TDs.
Now, Mitchell has the chance to regain that touch ``Between the Hedges'' as the Gamecocks attempt to end Georgia's five-game series win streak.
Also on Thursday, Spurrier said that safety Emanuel Cook will play against the Bulldogs if he is cleared by doctors. Cook missed the opener as he recuperated from an appendectomy, but has practiced with the team this week. He's also dealing with his arrest on a weapons charge last month.
``He's a good player, a good tackler, good hustler,'' Spurrier said. ``He's on of our best players, no question about that.''
 

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