Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After a few ho-hum seasons at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier had been turning in a few ho-hum performances at SEC Media Days the past few years -- ones nearly all observers agreed were a far cry from his charismatic, entertaining turns during his Florida salad days. Spurrier admitted as much in his appearance Wednesday. "I haven't won enough to be very talkative lately," he said.
But Gamecock fans have to be encouraged that, for the most part, Spurrier today was at his charming, engaging best. Here are the highlights from his comments, organized by topic:
Expectations. In his opening statement, Spurrier said "we feel like we've probably assembled maybe the best group of players we've had in the seven years now that I've been there."
But asked later about being the presumptive SEC favorite, Spurrier responded with a question of his own: "You know we lost our last two games last year? We're not sitting around patting each other on the back too much." He mentioned twice that the Gamecocks finished seventh in the conference in both total offense and total defense, so they were "not a great team by any means." In short: He doesn't believe egos or motivation will be a problem as the team looks to "win the game in Atlanta" for the first time.
"We've accomplished a few firsts," he said, referring to last year's SEC East title (among other accomplishments), "but there's still plenty more out there for us to go after."
Garcia. Spurrier said wayward quarterback Stephen Garcia had "done everything we've asked" and was still "set to return" come fall camp. Noting that Garcia's recent issues haven't been of a legal nature -- "no arrests, no DUIs" -- Spurrier explained his willingness to keep his troubled star on the roster by saying, "I guess we just don't want to kick him out for stupidity."
But Spurrier also defiantly refused to name Garcia the starter, saying he would "have a little competition" between the senior and 2010 backup Connor Shaw. "Whoever our quarterback is, he needs to go out and earn it in preseason practice," Spurrier said. (The number of people convinced that quarterback might be Shaw likely remains in the single digits, however.)
Scholarship proposals. Spurrier made it clear he is no fan of Mike Slive's reform proposals, even addressing his reponse to Slive when it came to offering multiple-year scholarships. "That's a terrible idea, Commissioner," he said.
He also slammed the proposed new standards for freshman eligiblity, saying he felt they were "pretty good the way they are right now." "For some reason," he added "we seem to want to try to make it more and more difficult for these young men who come from difficult backgrounds and difficult academic settings."
Clowney. When will No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney see the field at defensive end? "Early and often," Spurrier said. "We think he's really going to be a super player and a real good guy for us."
From the sound of it, he might even start. Addressing his defense, Spurrier said, "We're hoping with Devin [Taylor] coming on one end and Jadeveon coming from the other end or up the middle or somewhere, we're gonna have a good pass rush this year."
Spurrier credited his team's improvement in large part to better in-state recruiting, of which Clowney is a part -- between him, Marcus Lattimore and All-SEC corner Stephon Gilmore, Carolina has landed the last three South Carolina Mr. Football winners. According to Spurrier, Clowney's decision "sends a message" as the first No. 1 overall recruit to choose a program that has never won a national title.
Honesty. As usual, Spurrier (to his everlasting credit) answered questions with nothing less than his honest opinion. Lobbed a softball question about star receiver Alshon Jeffery being "underappreciated," Spurrier cited Jeffery's many accolades (including a first team All-American nod) in saying he didn't feel like Jeffery was underappreciated at all.
Asked what had made the difference between the 2010 Gamecocks and their previous editions, Spurrier discussed Lattimore and other factors -- but also started his reponse by saying his team benefitted from the East's "three top teams not having the years they usually have."
Spurrier was also questioned about the departure of Bryce Sherman, the former Gamecock walk-on whose 2010 scholarship was not renewed and who left the team in a flurry of angry Tweets. "We gave him a year and a half [of scholarship money], which I thought was pretty nice of us," Spurrier said.
Special teams. Spurrier revealed he was sorely disappointed in his special teams units, noting that they have yet to score a touchdown during his seven-year tenure. "Some day, I want to win a game with a blocked punt," he said.
Practice. Asked about the Ivy League's new policy limiting full-contact practices and whether it would work at the FBS level, Spurrier offered a surprising response for an SEC coach -- he said the Gamecocks would be fine with that policy in place.
"To me, it doesn't make any sense to get your own players hurt in practice," he said. "When the Army guys practice against each other, they don't use live bullets. Why do football teams use live hits?"
Money. Spurrier mentioned that the Gamecocks spend less on recruiting services than any other SEC school (just $12,000 a year), then spun that into a discussion of the massive amounts of money in the league these days ... and a dig at Mississippi State, with Dan Mullen waiting in the podium wings.
"Mississippi State's got a jet airplane," Spurrier said. "They've got all kinds of money at Mississippi State. Everybody's got a lot of money."