COLUMBIA — The reason South Carolina running back Mike Davis is sitting to begin Thursday night's opener is disciplinary and not directly linked to his health or performance in recent practices, a pair of sources close to the team told The Post and Courier on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Davis broke into a locked refrigerator in the team's weight room that contained sports drinks, sources said. Davis bent the door's frame to get a drink, they said.

The players were summoned and the guilty party was asked to come forward by strength coach Mark Smith. Smith told everyone there was a surveillance tape of the area.

But no one confessed. The football staff learned later, through that video footage, that it was Davis.

The coaches then decided the best mode of action was to bench the senior from Columbia, at least to begin the game against North Carolina State. A source said Davis is also expected to pay for the damages to the refrigerator.

The information takes some of the stun out of coach Steve Spurrier's decision Monday to name career reserve Taylor Rank the Gamecocks' starter.

Spurrier said Monday, and again Tuesday, that Rank had performed well in practice and Davis had struggled to show he was ready after a shoulder injury and an illness sidelined him for a couple of weeks during camp.

"Mike hasn't hit any basically all preseason, and he's been hurt about the whole time," Spurrier said. "Taylor's really had a better preseason. He's done everything we've asked and so forth. But Mike's ready to play. Mike's ready to play."

When asked if the benching was about trying to send Davis a message, Spurrier said no.

"No, no, I'm not unhappy with Mike's effort," Spurrier said. "He'll be fine."

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie was requested Tuesday for an interview, but he declined. He referred general questions to Spurrier through USC's sports information department.

Davis rushed for 518 yards last season, and has 1,658 rushing yards in his three-year career.

Davis, along with a couple of teammates, will also have to sit one game later in the season because of spotty class attendance. It will likely be the Sept. 20 Wofford game or the Sept. 27 UAB game.

Rank has started one game before. He rushed for 101 yards on 15 carries in the 45-6 win over Florida Atlantic in 2006. Otherwise, he's rushed for 3 yards on seven carries.

Sophomore Brian Maddox was ahead of Rank initially when Davis went down. But Maddox has had trouble hanging onto the ball during practice, making Rank the more dependable, experienced option.

On Monday, Spurrier referred questions about Maddox to Gillespie.

Spurrier said five running backs — Rank, Davis, Maddox, freshman Eric Baker and senior Bobby Wallace — will dress for Thursday's game. That likely indicates that freshman Kenny Miles is a candidate for a redshirt.