on September 1, 2007 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

USC’s Boyd uses wisdom, leadership during troubling time

COLUMBIA — The sidelines. The bench. Off the field. They’re situations South Carolina’s Cory Boyd is familiar with.

Two years ago the New Jersey native was on the receiving end of a punishment from first-year Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier for an unspecified violation of team rules. Boyd was forced to sit out the 2005 campaign and could only participate on the practice squad.

Now a fifth-year senior, the running back is playing the part of reassuring role model over men in need of comfort as he helps USC start the 2007 season without incumbent starter Blake Mitchell.

“You’ve just got to let them know you’re there for them and you’re going to work hard the best way you can and that your focus is with the team and not your personal goals or personal issues,” Boyd said of his personal advice to his trouble teammate.

Mitchell, a fifth-year senior, lost his appeal early in the week to be allowed back on the field for Carolina’s season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. The Georgia native was penalized for not attending the required amount of summer school classes resulting in the one game punishment.

Just a few practices after Mitchell’s suspension, Spurrier announced that Chris Smelley, a red-shirt freshman from Alabama, would be the starter for the game with Tommy Beecher also seeing significant time under center especially in the first half.

Enter Boyd.

While the team dealt with the idea of not having their senior and most tenured signal caller on the field, Boyd has become the reassuring voice that despite the loss USC is still a team capable of achieving great things in the season.

“It’s always a distraction when you lose a dear teammate,” Boyd said. “But at the same time we know we have a bigger goal at hand.”

The suspension does give Spurrier the chance to give look at other players, especially those under center, saying it will be interesting to see how they do.

“Statistically they’re pretty close,” Spurrier said of Beecher and Smelley. “These guys are well prepared to play and I expect them to play well.”

Along with Mitchell’s suspension were the suspensions of key reserves in cornerback Chris Hail and running back Bobby Wallace for also not attending classes.

Added to the academic casualties came the suspension of safety Emanuel Cook for unlawful possession of a firearm after an incident on campus last week. Though Cook has since been reinstated to the University, he was hospitalized earlier in the week for appendicitis, making him unavailable for the next few weeks as well.

Though the depth chart isn’t depleted, Boyd knows that staying focused on the task at hand is the key.

“We haven’t focused on (losing two starters),” Boyd said. “We’re just focusing on getting the personnel of ULL, trying to know what type of personnel the have, what type of tendencies they have.”

Though the loss of players is noticeable and a hot topic, Spurrier knows it’s what happens on the field Saturday that matters.

“All suspensions are disappointing but I’m not going to sit over here in the corner and cry about it,” Spurrier said. “I’m going to go coach my tail off and be excited about who we have on the field playing.”

For Boyd, it’s about being the leader even when things aren’t at their best.

“(I’ll) get into their ear before they get in the huddle or offense takes the field and let them know to go out there and play a little pitch and catch,” Boyd said of his advice to the men under center. “Block out all the fans and people that are around and make it seem as we’re in practice. Just keep your composure and everything will be good.”