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March 14, 2006

USC's Newton expects to be ready

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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Syvelle Newton has always been fast. Now, it looks like he may heal quick enough to make an impact on South Carolina's next football season.

Newton tore his left Achilles tendon last fall after scoring a touchdown in the Gamecocks 35-28 win over Vanderbilt. It abruptly ended coach Steve Spurrier's perfect three-card monte plans to befuddle opponents and line Newton up at quarterback, tailback and receiver as he saw fit.

Doctors told Newton he would need six to eight months of rehabilitation after undergoing surgery to reattach the tendon. But there was Newton, wearing a bright yellow No. 13 jersey that marked him off limits for serious action or contact, moving crisply and without struggle as the Gamecocks began spring practice.

''As of right now, everything is going good,'' said Newton, who'll be a senior next season.

Newton played seven games last year, missing the final five after the injury. Still, he was second on the Gamecocks with 27 receptions and third on the team with 150 yards rushing and 502 all-purpose yards.

When Spurrier popped Newton in against Vanderbilt at all three skill positions, it worked wonderfully. Newton had an 11-yard touchdown pass to Carson Askins and a 34-yard TD throw to Sidney Rice in the third quarter as South Carolina rallied to a 21-14 lead.

Newton finished off a 10-yard touchdown run to increase South Carolina's lead when he felt something pop and did not play again the rest of the season.

Against the Commodores, Newton rushed for 80 yards, completed three of four passes for 46 yards and even caught one 8-yard reception. For his efforts, Newton was named the Southeastern Conference's offensive player of the week.

He expects to start testing his skills in a couple of weeks when he runs in a pool among other drills. ''The way it's looking, I'm kind of going a little bit faster than normal,'' Newton said. ''But we're still going to take it slow.''

South Carolina runner Cory Boyd said Newton was down after the injury, unsure what might happen next. ''I just told him to keep his head up, put everything in God's hands,'' Boyd remembered. ''If you do what you've got to do, the rest will follow.''

South Carolina's pre-spring depth chart has Newton grouped with the receivers. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier thinks his former triple-threat playmaker should be ready to go when South Carolina opens the season Aug. 31 with a Thursday night special at Mississippi State.

''Syvelle's moving around fairly well,'' Spurrier said. ''He's bouncing on his toes. I asked him if he could actually run a little bit. He said, 'I think I could'' but the doctors don't want him to yet. So I think he's on schedule to play this year.''

Three days after the injury, Newton raised using his as yet untaken redshirt year if he felt weakness or instability because of the injury.

''That's still an option if I'm not 100 percent by August,'' Newton said Monday after practice. ''I'm not going to push it. But I'm going to attempt to make a run for it.''

For more coverage of the South Carolina Gamecocks, check out GamecockCentral.com.



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