August 28, 2007

Tuesday Notebook: Cook reinstated by school

Emanuel Cook may attend class again. And live in the dorms.

Cook, arrested and jailed for about 18 hours late last week before undergoing an appendectomy over the weekend, was reinstated to the university Tuesday afternoon following a hearing before the university's student judicial council.

Cook must satisfy certain conditions, head coach Steve Spurrier said, to remain a student in good standing. Cook will be reinstated to the football team, as well, Spurrier added.

"We appreciate the student judicial committee that met about his situation," Spurrier said following a two-hour workout in scorching heat on the Bluff Road practice conditions. "There are certain things he's got to do but we certainly very happy he's back with us. This situation was certainly a surprise."

A number of players and assistant coaches attended the hearing to support Cook. Spurrier did not attend, however.

"We had a few players and a few assistant coaches go by to show their support but I didn't feel like it was my place to be there," Spurrier said.

A grateful Cook released a two-paragraph statement late Tuesday afternoon through his attorney, Lowell E. Bernstein:

"I appreciate the fair and expeditious handling of this matter by the University and the Office of Judicial Affairs. I understand the seriousness of the charge made against me and believe the actions taken by the University were reasonable and appropriate in this situation. I want to apologize to the entire University community, the football team and staff, and my family and friends for the negative attention, which my actions may have brought.

"I am excited to continue my educational pursuits and assure you I will have a positive impact on the University in the future. I would like to thank you for your support during this difficult period in my life. I also want everyone to know that I am on my way to a full and speedy recovery from my appendectomy, which was performed on Sunday."

Cook, though, is not healthy enough to return to the active roster yet following an attack of appendicitis that required him to undergo the appendectomy at Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital.

He should be sidelined about two weeks, Spurrier said. No decision to activate Cook to the roster or redshirt him for this season will be made until then, he added.

"Let's see how he is in two weeks. If he's out half the year we could (redshirt Cook)," Spurrier said.

Cook was arrested last Thursday night outside the East Quad dorm along with another man on a charge of unlawfully possessing a pistol by a person under 21.

Cooks spent the night at the Richland County jail before being released Friday afternoon on a personal recognizance bond. In accordance with the school's zero tolerance policy towards possessing guns on campus, Cook was summarily suspended by the university.

Spurrier acknowledged Tuesday the episode has been a learning experience for the entire football team. The main lesson was simple - stay away from guns.

"We've all learned a lot in the Emanuel Cook incident with the gun," Spurrier said. "The players all know now, and they should know, that when you see a pistol you need to go the other direction as fast as you can, don't touch it. That's a no-no. It's a good rule."

Brandon Isaac, a senior from Blackville, S.C., was listed as the starter at strong safety in place of Cook for Saturday's 7 p.m. season opening game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Besides Cook, another player nearing resolution of his case is senior defensive end Jordin Lindsey. He met Tuesday with Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance Jennifer Stiles and the professor for his summer school course to try to resolve his situation. The final decision on whether to grant the waiver required for Lindsey to play this season will be made by the NCAA.

"We should know something before kickoff," Spurrier said. "They were making some calls trying to see if we can get it resolved."

The meeting between Stiles, Lindsey and the professor was held to try to get a grade "updated or changed or whatever you want to call it," Spurrier said.

SMELLEY, BEECHER TAKE OVER: While redshirt freshmen Chris Smelley will start Saturday's game in the wake of Blake Mitchell's one-game suspension, Spurrier emphasized again Tuesday during his weekly press conference that Tommy Beecher will get a significant number of snaps too.

"It's going to be interesting watching the two quarterbacks play," Spurrier said. "Tommy Beecher will be in there the first quarter or second quarter. We're going to play both of them and see how they do. If one of them is playing a little bit better
than the other, he may continue on. We'll see how it goes. But they're both going to get their opportunity here Saturday night. They've thrown thousands of passes (in practice). They should know what to do. We'll see how they perform."

Smelley appeared in the first two games last season, completing 9-of-15 passes for 112 yards. His longest connection was a 42-yarder to Kenny McKinley. Beecher completed both of his passes last season, one for a touchdown to Mike West.

Smelley and Beecher have battled most of fall camp trying to earn the job as Blake Mitchell's primary backup. The competition has been extremely close, Spurrier said, and it was difficult to select a winner.

"These guys (QBs) have been rotating the whole pre-season. They've been in all the scrimmages," Spurrier said. "Statistically, they're pretty close. They're about the same. No one has really outplayed the other that predominantly. If they had, they may be the starter because we open it up for competition every year around here.

Spurrier suggested both Smelley and Beecher have pushed Mitchell hard during fall camp to become the new permanent starter.

"Just because you're the starter one year does not make you a starter the next year," Spurrier said. "These guys are well prepared to play. I really expect them to play well, and believe they will as long as the line blocks and receivers get open and catch balls. That's what makes quarterbacks look good."

REDSHIRTS FOR GARCIA, RICHARDSON: Spurrier reiterated Tuesday that freshmen quarterback Stephen Garcia and offensive linemen Quintin Richardson will redshirt in 2007. Garcia, a record-setting quarterback from Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fla., is No. 4 on the QB depth chart. Richardson, a local product from Spring Valley High School, battled legal difficulties before being reinstated to the team in time for the start of fall camp.

Spurrier said he's told Garcia to get ready to fight for the starting job next spring. With Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher available for duty, Garcia's best option this fall was to watch and learn.

"We really feel like we're going to have three quarterbacks ready to play," Spurrier said. "I told Stephen the other day, I said 'We hope to hold you out this year and next year you'll have a chance to be the starter.' If he has a very good spring and proves he can play better than the other guys, he'll be the

EVERYBODY GETS A CHANCE: Although offensive line coach John Hunt prefers to stick with the same five offensive lineman in a game to develop continuity and chemistry, Spurrier said Tuesday that he may rotate the linemen frequently Saturday night in the quest to find the five best guys for the critically important Georgia game next weekend.

"It's a different approach because we've got eight or nine (linemen) capable of playing," Spurrier said. "That's
the main reason we'll play (everybody). They're all pretty
similar. Hopefully, by next week we'll know who our best five are. We don't really know right now. It took us until about the sixth game last year to figure it out. We're still not quite there yet on who the best five are."

Spurrier also said the offensive line has improved overall from one year ago entering the season opener.

"I think we're farther along in the offensive line than we've been at any time since we've been here," Spurrier said. "We think they know what to do and hopefully can execute their assignments well. We'll probably play at least nine or 10 players in the offensive line. We need to let them all play in the real game and then go from there and see whom the best players are. There'll be several offensive linemen going in and out just like maybe receivers and running backs."

According to the depth chart released Tuesday, the starting offensive line is LT Jamon Meredith, LG Garrett Anderson, C William Brown, RG James Thompson and RT Justin Sorensen. That lineup is far from being set in stone, Spurrier said.

The second-team O-line features Gurminder Thind (LT), Kevin Young (LG), Lemuel Jeanpierre (RG) and Hutch Eckerson (RT). Anderson is Brown's backup at center.

"I don't know that we've established the starters yet," Spurrier said. "Certainly, James Thompson and Lemuel Jeanpierre are vying for the right guard position. Garrett Anderson and Kevin Young (are competing) at left guard, although Gurminder has played some guard also. But we've got eight, nine players that should play quite a bit of the game."

NEW LOOK SPECIAL TEAMS: Spurrier is anxious to watch USC's new special teams in action Saturday night. Both the kickoff return and kickoff coverage teams struggled at times last season, as did the punt return team. But a new emphasis on special teams has Spurrier believing things will be better in 2007.

"We'll see if we've made any progress (in special teams)," Spurrier said. "We've certainly spent more time on it, a little more time, and emphasized it as much as we can. Guys that
played special teams last year are not on it this year. Hopefully, we've got better athletes to cover and block."

Sophomore cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will serve as USC's primary kick returner for both kickoffs and punts. Kenny McKinley was the primary punt returner in 2006.

"I'm hoping to see (Munnerlyn) get loose and hopefully see if we
can block for him," Spurrier said. "Our problem has not been Kenny not getting loose. It's nobody blocked for him in the last two years."

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: Saturday's game is close to a sell-out. "Hopefully, our people will be here screaming and yelling and giving us that little extra edge we have here at home as far as crowd noise is concerned," Spurrier said. . .As a way to promote better success at home, USC has placed an awning over the player tunnel in the southwest end zone with the Under Armour logo that reads, "Protect this house". . .Spurrier noted the excellent health of the team. Other than Emanuel Cook, most of the regulars are injury-free. MLB Jasper Brinkley will play. . .Spurrier said the physical conditioning of the team is excellent. . .Cory Boyd and Mike Davis should split ball-carrying duties Saturday night, Spurrier said. But the decision-maker on who is in the game in a certain situation is running backs coach Robert Gillespie. USC is presently a better rushing team than a throwing team, Spurrier said. . .Saturday's game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis throughout South Carolina and Louisiana. . .USC is 73-36-4 in season openers. . .Spurrier is 16-1 in season openers. . .Spurrier is seventh in wins among NCAA Division I active coaches with 157.

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