Spurrier has that look again
Published: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 5:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 at 5:08 p.m.
HOOVER, Ala. — Maybe he was a year early.
Last year at SEC Media Days, Steve Spurrier stood up at the podium and went bold and brash on us. He said his third South
Carolina team was ready to contend for an SEC title.
He was, of course, wrong.
“Dead wrong,” Spurrier said.
Five straight losses ended the season and Spurrier’s team was left without a bowl game despite being bowl eligible.
But if we thought he was going to wrap up Media Days Friday by poor-mouthing his team or sandbagging, we were wrong.
That’s never been the Spurrier way. He has always believed in the power of positive thinking. When he went to Duke
in 1987, his goal was to convince the Dookies they were as good as Clemson and North Carolina. When he came to Florida in
1990, he did his best to put the negativity of the previous eras out of his players’ heads.
So while he may not be quite as confident as he was a year ago, he’s not dismissing the Gamecocks’ chances
to (gulp) win the Eastern Division.
You just have to read between the lines to see it.
“We still want to win an SEC title,” he said. “We just don’t need to be talking about it.”
After listening to Spurrier, it seemed very clear that he likes this team better than last year’s. He just didn’t
know it a year ago. It’s also obvious he expects something to happen in the next few years, something wonderful.
And if it doesn’t, he’ll be gone.
“We need to have one or two big years, win the division,” Spurrier said. “If that doesn’t happen
in about five years, somebody else probably needs to try to do it. South Carolina can win. I truly believe it.”
A lot of people thought Spurrier would be humbled by a 6-6 season that he called “mediocrity at its best.”
Instead, he seems energized.
He has the look of the old ball coach, the guy with a confident air about him. It’s just that he’s saying it
Spurrier knows he has a pretty good team. What he doesn’t know is if it can be really good. There is a culture in
Columbia that is hard to explain. I’ve seen it and I can’t really explain it. The fans are loud and numerous.
But it’s almost like they are always waiting for something bad to happen.
And that bleeds over to the players.
The issue is whether or not Spurrier can change that.
“I haven’t changed them yet,” he said. “But the next three or four years, we should do something
South Carolina should have a good defense. But can it be dominant? He likes his quarterback Tommy Beecher. But for how
long? He believes in letting Steve Jr. call the plays. But how will that work? He is convinced the coaching changes he made
will work out. But will they?
The point is there are still a lot of questoins about South Carolina, questions a lot of us who believe Spurrier is still
an elite coach would have resolved by now. The biggest question is whether Spurrier has lost his magic or South Carolina is
simply doomed to be irrelevant no matter who the coach is.
He thinks he still has it. You can tell. And finally, he believes he has the players. He thought he did last year. He was
“This team this year is much better prepared than last year,” Spurrier said. “We’ve got better
players than we’ve had since I got to South Carolina. We look like a football team now when we run out on the field.
We’ve got ball players. There are absolutely no excuses. We look like an SEC team. We didn’t when I got here.
“We have to coach better and they have to play better. They have to play
harder and smarter.”
Spurrier even put together a tape of plays that cost South Carolina a bunch of close games.
“I hope it helps,” he said.
I think South Carolina is the sleeper team in the SEC this year, a team that should win eight games. But if the Gamecocks
suffer through another bowl-less year, you’ll have to start wondering if it’s simply not going to happen.
Spurrier thinks it will. His glass is still half full.
It’s just that his players have to drink from it.
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