August 24, 2007

Spurrier: Cook in wrong place at wrong time

Steve Spurrier views Emanuel Cook's arrest late Thursday night for unlawful possession of a firearm as a classic case of "being in the wrong place at the wrong time" and needing to choose your acquaintances more wisely.

Cook was summarily suspended by the university Friday afternoon shortly before he was released from jail, in accordance with the school's zero tolerance policy towards the possession of guns on campus.

As a result, Cook is not allowed to attend class or live in student housing until he's reinstated by the school.

"It was sad the way it happened," Spurrier said. "I don't know all the details. I know he's out of school. Anytime you've got a gun in your hand, you're out of here. I agree with that. Obviously, we're hoping the circumstances will come forward that he didn't know exactly what he was doing or (the gun) wasn't his or something else."

Cook was released from the Richland County jail late Friday afternoon after being granted a $2,000 personal recognizance bond by a judge.

His attorney, Lowell Bernstein, said in a statement that Cook hopes to be reinstated to the university and rejoin the football team.

"He's got no record and this is out of character for him," said Bernstein, adding that neither the weapon nor the vehicle involved in the case belonged to Cook.

The second defendant arrested by police along with Cook was 21-year old James Gore III, who is also a student at USC. Spurrier believes Cook was partially a victim of bad timing, but made a poor choice about the people he hangs around with.

Spurrier noted this is the first time Cook, a good student, has been in trouble with the law since joining USC last August.

"He's a good young man that, obviously, was at the wrong place at the wrong time," Spurrier said. "He has no history of this kind of stuff, that I know of. You've got to choose your friends (more carefully). Supposedly, the gun was not his. But he was with a guy with a gun, so you're guilty by association. We all are. We tell our guys to choose the right company."

Cook finished the 2006 season tied for third on the team with 47 tackles from his strong safety spot.

The case has Spurrier questioning whether he should have been more vocal with his players regarding the legal dangers of possessing a weapon. Spurrier acknowledged he wasn't aware of the university's zero tolerance policy towards guns in campus.

"Maybe I haven't emphasized don't be around guns enough," Spurrier said. "We need to emphasize it more. Honestly, I didn't know the rule. I didn't know you were (suspended) if someone hands you a gun and you hand it back to them. It's a good rule. Now we know it. You have to treat those things like a rattlesnake."

Spurrier said he's talked with his players more about violence against women and drugs.

Chris Hampton, a senior, will be elevated to first-team strong safety in Cook's place while the sophomore from Riviera Beach, Fla. remains on suspension. Cook also played on "every special team," Spurrier said.

"He's one of our best players, no question about it," Spurrier said. "He's one of our best guys, he's a wonderful guy. He got caught in a bad situation. Kenrick Ellis called me and said 'Coach, it could just easily have been me.' Kenrick said the other guy is a student too and everybody knows him.'"

Spurrier, though, wasn't giving up hope that Cook might be available to play next Saturday night.

"We'll let the legal system do its work," Spurrier said. "I don't have all the details. Obviously, we're hoping with the circumstances that he'll get another chance here."

While Cook goes on university suspension, another player continues to fight the disciplinary action against him.

Starting quarterback Blake Mitchell practiced again Friday while he's awaiting a decision on the appeal from his one-game suspension for missing too many summer school classes.

But Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher again took most of the snaps in practice Friday. While Smelley has been appointed the starter by Spurrier, both quarterbacks will see significant action against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 1.

"(Mitchell) didn't do much today as far as I know," Spurrier said. "Tommy Beecher is going to play in the game. It's not Chris Smelley's total game. He's just starting. We'll play both of them. Maybe the guy who's playing the best will play the second half. There's not much different between them. In fact, all three of them have played about the same in the pre-season."

KINGREY AWARDED SCHOLARSHIP; ANOTHER FREE RIDE FOR LINDSEY : Junior walk-on fullback Bryan Kingrey has been awarded a scholarship by Steve Spurrier. Kingrey appeared in five games last season, and started the Georgia game. He earned his first varsity letter.

"Bryan has been out here busting his tail for three years now," Spurrier said. "In the scrimmages, he's in there all the time. He plays tailback, fullback and he's a good special teams player. He blocks on field goals and extra points. He was the most deserving athlete."

Kingrey joined the football program in 2004. He was part of the scout team in 2005 but did not play in any games. He switched from linebacker to fullback following spring practice in 2005.

Kingrey grew up in Raleigh, N.C. but fell in love with the USC campus when he visited Columbia three years ago.

"I really liked it," Kingrey said. "I was real close to N.C. State and UNC and a lot of other schools up there but I just enjoyed it when I came down here for visits."

Kingrey had some offers from several smaller schools when he graduated from Ravenscroft Upper School in 2004. He lettered in football there for three years. But he wanted to play college football at a major school.

Kingrey's younger brother started attending USC this fall.

Dustin Lindsey, who sat out last season while he was academically ineligible to play, has earned his scholarship back. Lindsey, still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the spring game, was third on the team in tackles with 58 in 2005.

"We're taking a chance on Dustin," Spurrier said. "He's flunked out once here. He better not again or he'll be in dire straits. We're taking a chance because he paid his own way for a year. He got himself eligible again. He's convinced us he wants to graduate from our school."

SMELLEY READY FOR CHANCE TO PLAY: It's still eight days to the season opener but Chris Smelley knows he's not guaranteed to start against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 1, even though head coach Steve Spurrier has appointed him the starter in case Blake Mitchell loses his appeal.

"I'm just going to wait and see what happens," Smelley said. "I'll be ready and do what I can to get myself prepared in case I get a chance to start and get out there to help the team win. I work 100 percent everyday, just give it everything I've got. So it's just a normal day for me."

Smelley, who completed 9-of-15 passes for 112 yards in two games last season, vowed the Gamecocks will be full prepared to face the Ragin' Cajuns in front of a sell-out crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"This team's focused and ready to go," Smelley said. "We've got a lot of veteran leaders out here. So we'll continue working just as hard. The team is still excited. If I get a chance to play, it's a good opportunity for me to get out there and show everybody what I got."

While he's ecstatic about the opportunity to start the first game of his career, Smelley also feel bad for Mitchell, a fifth-year senior beginning his final season in a Gamecock uniform.

"A lot of guys look up to him," Smelley said. "He works hard on the field. He's the same way off the field. He's a good friend, good quarterback, and good competitor. (Spurrier) mentioned something to me today that it's not a done deal yet."

While some critics have said the episode confirms Mitchell is not a good team leader, Smelley disagrees.

"Most quarterbacks are supposed to be a team leader and I think Blake is," Smelley said. "He works hard everyday. He does everything like the summer weight room and leading on the field. I know the team is confident in Blake. I feel the team definitely has confidence in me. If I get a chance to be out on the field, I'll give it everything I've got and help put the team in position to win."

2007 FALL PRACTICE COUNTDOWN
Practices Held - 24
Practices Left - 6
Next Practice - Sat., Aug. 25, 10 a.m. (Closed)

NOTES:

-- Running back Mike Davis should return to practice Monday after suffering a mild sprained shoulder in Wednesday night's scrimmage.

-- Spurrier responded "I don't know" when asked if middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley would join Davis at practice on Monday. Brinkley has been nursing a sprained ankle for nine days.


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