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National Sports Briefs: Panthers sign two more draft picks

Associated Press
CHARLOTTE ó The Carolina Panthers have signed two more draft choices, reaching deals with linebacker Dan Connor and defensive end Hilee Taylor.
With Thursday’s actions, Carolina has now signed five of its nine draft picks. Still unsigned are first rounders Jonathan Stewart and Jeff Otah, third-round choice Charles Godfrey and seventh-round pick Geoff Schwartz.
Connor ranks as Penn State’s all-time leader with 419 tackles, including 14 sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and four interceptions. He won the 2007 Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player.
Taylor played linebacker as well as defensive end at North Carolina. He started all 12 games as a senior in 2007 and led the team with 10.5 sacks, including at least half a sack in seven consecutive games, to earn second-team All-ACC recognition.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
COLUMBIA, S.C.ó Steve Spurrier cleared up several items Thursday: He’s not leaving South Carolina, he’s not ceding his role as the Gamecocks’ chief strategist and he thinks he’s got a special, albeit untested, talent in junior quarterback Tommy Beecher, who hails from Concord.
Spurrier touched on a variety of topics with the Gamecocks two weeks from reporting for fall camp and six weeks from the opener with North Carolina State on Aug. 28.
Among them was the notion that growing frustration and continued stumbles would send Spurrier running from the rebuilding project he accepted after the 2004 season.
Spurrier laughed off the idea that turning the Gamecocks into Southeastern Conference contenders would be anything but a gradual, step-by-step process. “Did you think there was a team here ready to win the SEC?” he said.
The Gamecocks best recruiting class under Spurrier came in 2007, a group considered one of the country’s 10 best by many analysts. Those players, Spurrier says, are just ready to flourish.
And Spurrier plans to stick around to see how they fare.
“Everybody talks about how, ‘This guy’s in his 60s. He’s going to walk away from this thing,’ ” said Spurrier, 63. “I feel just as good as I did when I was in my 40s.”
– ORLANDO, Fla. ó A University of Central Florida football player who died after spring drills had a pre-existing medical condition worsened by physical stress, autopsy results released Thursday showed.
The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office said Ereck Plancher, 19, had a sickle cell trait that caused problems with his red blood cells during physical exertion.
COLLEGE HOOPS
GREENVILLE ó East Carolina’s trustees have approved a five-year contract for coach Mack McCarthy.The deal, which was approved Thursday, will pay McCarthy $225,000 per year.
NBC
NEW YORK ó Bob Costas will be back in Beijing for his seventh Olympics as prime-time host of NBC’s coverage, but this time he’ll be getting out a little more.
NBC announced its roster of announcers and commentators Wednesday for the games, which begin Aug. 6. NBC’s 106 on-air announcers have won 42 Olympic medals among them, including 25 gold medals.
Costas will be leaving the studio to appear more at Olympics venues, an approach tested out this summer when he was at U.S. Olympics trials for swimming and gymnastics, said NBC Sports spokesman Brian Walker. It will give viewers a better sense of place, he said.
CYCLING
NARBONNE, France ó Mark Cavendish of Britain has won the 12th stage of the Tour de France. His victory came hours after the race was thrown into chaos with a third doping bust.
Italian rider Riccardo Ricco was detained by police before Thursday’s stage. He is the third person to test positive for the performance enhancer EPO.
BUDWEISER
MILWAUKEE ó Sports world, this Bud’s still for you. Anheuser-Busch executives told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the beer maker will maintain its high level of sports marketing and sponsorship under new owner InBev. In fact, they said, spending could increase.
“There’s nothing at all for those of us that are at the pulse of all this to suggest that our sports are cutting back at all,” said vice-president Tony Ponturo.
Sports marketing accounts for two-thirds of Anheuser-Busch’s overall marketing, but InBev’s reputation as a cost-cutter had raised speculation that the huge budget could get the ax, leaving many a drinker to wonder “Whassup?”
TENNIS
STANFORD, Calif. ó Patty Schnyder displayed a nice array of power and finesse to get by the inconsistent Kleybanova 7-6 (8), 6-4 on Thursday in the second round of the Bank of the West Classic.
Next up for Schnyder: a date with top-seeded Serena Williams in today’s quarterfinals.

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