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July 22, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Here to finish us up today is South Carolina head Coach Steve Spurrier.
COACH SPURRIER: Thank you. Nice to be at the SEC Media Day again. One of the guys asked me the other day, what do you credit your longevity to? I said, fortunately no losing records as an SEC coach yet overall. As we know, that's how you stay a long time.
But on the other side, we're really looking forward to our season in South Carolina this coming year. We've done a lot of good things there. We're proud graduation-wise, we may win it this year. I think we were 13 out of 14 in graduations. Certainly we're going to be in the top 70% that the NCAA recognizes each year.
Academically our freshmen football players led the SEC, over 3.0 grade point average. We're doing all the right things academically there.
Facility-wise, Eric Hyman and his staff and our boosters and prominent people have donated generously to our facilities, right there with the top teams there. When Eric Hyman got to South Carolina, we might have been the bottom or near the bottom facility-wise in the SEC. So we're doing a lot of good things.
I don't think we've had but one player arrested in about two years, and those charges were dropped. That's pretty good nowadays, as we know.
We got excellent players. I think we got the best group of athletes since we've been there. I know they have the best attitudes. Their work habits and so forth have been excellent. Now we need to get past seven wins. We need to win big at South Carolina.
Our baseball team certainly proved you can win a big championship at the University of South Carolina. So hopefully we believe that will rub off on the other sports, and we're the next one up. So hopefully we can take a cue from those guys and have a good run as we go through the season.
But again, we believe we're heading in the right direction. We believe our program's in good shape. We're looking forward to this coming season. It's always a tough schedule at South Carolina. Anytime you're sort of the middle-of-the-road SEC team, which we are, you're going to play a tough schedule. Think ours was ranked fourth most difficult by one of the pre-season magazines. It's probably about right. We play a good schedule, but that's part of our game there.
We believe we got a team ready to play it this year. Our last game out, we were pretty lousy. The Bowl game here in Birmingham, Papa John Bowl, UConn beat us soundly. We haven't forgotten that. Until we prove we can play on a consistent basis, we just got hope. We got to go earn our way to believing that we can be a top SEC team.
But again, we do have players with wonderful attitudes that will give us a chance this coming season.
Okay, any questions?
Q. You were talking about the schedule. Week two you have the traditional game against Georgia in Carolina this year. We actually have a strong look at Georgia to possibly win the east. Talk about that game. Does the winner of that game in your mind have a chance to win the east?
COACH SPURRIER: The winner of that game just means he's one game up for a chance to win the east. That's all that means. But certainly it's a huge game for both of us as far as the conference is concerned.
We open up with Southern Miss Thursday night, ESPN, television game, September the 2nd. That's the one we're concerned about right now. They're a good team. They were 7-6 just like we were last year. They're already talking about coming in and beating us on national TV in front of the entire nation.
They'll be ready. We'll be ready. Should be a heck of a game, our opener against Southern Miss.
Q. You mentioned the arrest record you have over the last couple years. When you look around the SEC with agent stuff, do you think arrests in the SEC are more prevalent now than when you first came into the league, or are they covered differently and given more attention?
COACH SPURRIER: I think they're more common now because players are getting arrested for everything that in the old days they did not get arrested for. I can sort of remember back in our day, if you were out and something happened, they would say, Can you get home? We'll drive you home, to some of my teammates. They did not go into the tank that night.
But nowadays, as we all know, you go straight to jail if you've broken the law. There's no room for error. Times are a little different than they were 25, 30 years ago.
Q. I believe you accepted the South Carolina job in the fall of 2004. Do you realize, except for Mark Richt, that you would be the Dean of SEC coaches? Can you believe the turnover has been that big since you've been at South Carolina?
COACH SPURRIER: I'm going into my 60th year. I think Urban is going into his sixth year. But, anyway, we all realize the coaching profession is a turnover part deal. Hadn't really thought about that.
We really feel like we're heading in the right direction at South Carolina. We really do. You got to always have hope things are going to get better. What gives us hope is we have been able to recruit some really top players. This past year, of course, Marcus Lattimore was the top guy in the recruiting class, along with Kelsey Quarles, two guys that made Parade All-American. The year before, Stephon Gilmore, and Alshon Jeffery were two players that could have gone anywhere in the country.
We have belief and hope that our best days are ahead of us. I wanted to mention that because we do believe we're heading in the right direction, and hopefully real soon we can get over those seven wins and get up in there and be more competitive.
Q. Can you talk about the offenses in the SEC. Your offense, guys like Arkansas, Auburn. Talk about the offenses in the SEC.
COACH SPURRIER: Okay. There's all kind of offenses. Probably most of us are doing a little bit of the spread along with the traditional I formation and so forth. That's what we're doing. We're doing a little bit of both. Then hopefully we'll find out what works best and go from there.
But, again, I really believe it starts with your big guys up front, your offensive line are going to make you a pretty good offense, then your skill players have a chance to execute and so forth.
What hurt us the last two years, if we're going to have a good offense, we got to eliminate is our backward plays, sacks, bad snaps out of the shotgun. We've been bottom of the league in sacks, which has made us bottom of the league in rush offense. We must eliminate the backward plays to give our offense a chance to be more successful.
Q. As far as trying to compete in the east, obviously your team is built around your quarterback Stephen Garcia. What are some of the things you feel he's improved on that makes you feel you have a team that do contend for the Eastern Division?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, I hope Steven has improved on a lot of things and I hope he's had a good summer working on his fundamentals, so forth, learning the offense a little bit better. Obviously he has to do that on his own.
We did not have a very good Bowl game, as you know. We're going to find out when he starts playing this coming year.
But Stephen is our starter. He'll be our starter unless he's beaten out by the next quarterback. Right now the next quarterback is Connor Shaw, a young man from Flowery Branch, Georgia, all-state quarter back for the state of Georgia. He's a good player. He's been there since January. Graduated early from high school, been there all summer. He and Stephen, we got two quarterbacks coming to the ballpark ready to play.
We weren't in that position last year. Hopefully that will help Stephen a bit, knowing we got another guy. I think competition is always good at all the positions. But we got to get better play out of a lot of positions. Again, the biggest thing is not going backwards so many times.
Q. You interviewed Robbie Caldwell a couple years ago for an offensive line position. Talk about what you liked about him, his personality, just who he is.
COACH SPURRIER: Well, we never had a formal interview. I did call four or five guys, so forth. But Robbie, I think it's a wonderful opportunity for him. Somebody asked me about Bobby stepping down at this time. Obviously it appears Bobby is ready to get out of coaching, do something else. It gives his good friend Robbie Caldwell an opportunity to be the head coach and see what happens there.
But all I know about Robbie, he's very enthusiastic, an excellent offensive line coach. Now he's getting the chance to be a head coach. We'll see what happens there at Vandy this year.
Q. You have so much experience working with quarterbacks. Why is it so difficult to discern which quarterbacks that do well in high school will make the transition to the college level?
COACH SPURRIER: That is a good question. I don't know that we all know the answer to that. But certainly some players come to college, maybe not highly recruited, that turn out to be outstanding players. Some highly recruited guys may not. That's probably the same as going from college to the NFL. Some are rated highly and don't make it and so forth.
But I think it really comes down to the work habits of the player and the good players around him. Most quarterbacks don't play very well unless they have the good linemen and receivers, runningbacks and so forth.
You put a quarterback with a real good team, he should play pretty well if he's a good quarterback.
Q. You've been at South Carolina for a while. You're still talking about getting past seven wins. In general, is it what you thought it would be?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, that's a good question. We didn't think we were going to just step in there and start tearing it up at South Carolina. Seven wins over five years is 35. In the history of the school, we've never had 35 wins in a straight five-year period. So we don't have tremendous tradition there on the long haul at South Carolina. Certainly been some good teams in the past. But consistent winning teams has not been there. We've not done poorly, but we just haven't done super. We want to do real well.
Again, what gives us hope is some of these players that are not only really outstanding players but came to South Carolina to win, to win a championship. Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore, as I mentioned earlier, they could have gone anywhere. They believe we can win at South Carolina. So that's where we are right now.
Q. You've always been known as one of the biggest attractions here at the Media Days every single year. Earlier in here, right before you, you had Robbie Caldwell put on a show where he got claps from everyone in here. You have Joker Phillips from Kentucky. Are you worried they might be taking your title as most quotable coach in the conference?
COACH SPURRIER: No, I'm not worried about that at all (smiling). I don't think I've won enough games lately to have any outlandish quotes. If you win a bunch of games, it's pretty easy to give all the answers up here. But we haven't won enough. I'm just another ball coach trying to win a whole bunch of games that we haven't quite done yet.
Q. Can you clarify how the play calling duties will be handled this season.
COACH SPURRIER: I've been calling most all the plays. I haven't called them all the time in practice. We've been doing like those NFL guys, we script up most of the practice and so forth. Since I haven't called them all the time in practice. I think some of our players didn't even know I was calling about all of them. So to get the message to the players, I'm going to start calling just about all of them in practice now also.
But really sometimes as a play caller, even my two years in the NFL, I turned it over to one of our assistants. He came to me, said, Coach, if you want me to call the plays, I've done it before.
I started figuring it didn't really matter too much who called the plays. We tried to script them all and run them in there. After about three games, he came back and said, Coach, I think you need to take back the play calling. He'd had enough of it, too.
When you have a good team, things are going well, that play calling is a lot of fun. You start getting a whole bunch of sacks, this, that, and the other, it's not that much fun.
But I do plan on being a lot more involved in the practice play calling. But I've really been calling maybe 90% of the plays all these years anyway, that some people don't realize it because I haven't been doing it in practice as much. So I'll do it in practice more now.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the agent situation. Is it worse than you've seen it in the past? Do you agree with Coach Saban who thinks that not only the NCAA needs to change rules, but the NFL and the NFL Players Association need to change rules?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, I think they ought to be a little bit more active and help out in that regard. As coaches, we do all we can to tell our guys the rules. You can't accept anything from boosters, agents, or whoever.
But it's hard to watch 'em all the time. A buddy of mine wanted to give me something. We don't know if he's a runner, connected, this, that, and the other. It's a little bit of a difficult situation.
But sometimes you just got to, you know, trust your players know the rules and can wait till after their final game before they take the money. If you can get through your senior year, after your Bowl game, if you're in one, at that time, you can accept all the dough they want to give you. But you have to wait till your eligibility is over. That's what we all try to teach our guys.
Q. Getting back to the academics, the NCAA is soon going to be making public coaches' APR ratings. Do you think that's a good idea nationally?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, I think it's a pretty good idea. In fact, I never thought I'd get a bigger bonus for our guys graduating than I did for the Bowl game, but that's what I did this year. I got a bigger bonus for our APR improvement and our graduation and so forth. I didn't even know it was in there till Eric Hyman told me, By the way, you got about this amount of money coming, you got some for your assistant coaches also.
We're proud of our programs at South Carolina. Again, our guys are going to class, they're graduating, they're staying out of trouble. We just need to win big. That's what we haven't done yet. That's a big part of being successful, as we all know, is winning big, winning lots.
Q. What were your impressions of Ryan Mallett last season? What do you think of him as a quarterback?
COACH SPURRIER: Okay, they beat us last year in Fayetteville. He's an excellent player. Obviously an NFL prospect at 6'7", I believe. Of course, Coach Bobby Petrino's offense is very good for him. I believe he'll post big numbers again this year.
Q. Why do you seem to hate losing more than you enjoy winning?
COACH SPURRIER: I think all competitors hate losing more than winning. Hopefully you get in a habit of winning. You sort of expect it as you go.
But, anyway, the competition and so forth is supposed to be the most fun of playing in games, so forth. So that's what I still love to do. I love to compete. Some ask why I play golf in the off-season. It's because it gives me a chance to compete. I didn't play well. Hit the ball like Buddy Martin used to, which is embarrassing at times. Just the opportunity to compete.
We're looking forward to this year competing. I don't know what's going to happen. We got a lot of good players that believe we have a chance to do something. That's all we got right now is hope and belief that we have a chance to do something because we haven't proven anything yet.
Q. How would you describe your relationship with Stephen Garcia? Is it like one you've had with anyone else in your past?
COACH SPURRIER: Oh, it's probably similar to some of 'em in the past. I think I have a pretty good relationship with Stephen. I don't know how else to answer it. I left him alone this summer. I left him alone this spring pretty much, let him go play. We have a quarterback coach, G.A. Mangus, does a good job with all those guys. Sometimes our local media guys think I'm critical of him a lot. I'm just trying to tell -- express what he needs to do to help our team certainly. That's avoid the sacks and make better decisions.
So I'm not critical of him. He may be playing the best he can. I don't know yet. You know, you coach and you coach and you coach and you coach. At some point, players don't really make better decisions or play better, then that's the best they can be. That's all you can do. If you don't have another player to put in there, then you live with it. That's the way you go on.
But we think we'll have at least another quarterback ready to play this coming season in case Stephen struggles. Stephen will have the first opportunity to go the distance for us.
Q. One of the problems you've had at South Carolina has been the offensive line. You talked about the backwards plays. Do you feel that's going to be improved at all this year? Why has it been so difficult to build a better offensive line?
COACH SPURRIER: It's not all the linemen. It's a combination of all of us on offense, coaching, quarterback, runningbacks, tight ends, as well as the offensive line.
But we have a chance to be mostly a senior offensive line, which will be unusual. We've got more juniors and seniors ready to play than we've had this year. I read that in the paper, so I think that's true.
But, again, some of these senior linemen have not played all that super. But they're capable. I mean, we got good-looking athletes. We got guys 6'6", 310, 320, that bench press as well as anybody. Shawn Elliott, our line coach, has got to get 'em to play better. Hopefully he will do that this year.
We signed four good, young offensive linemen. Three of them will probably play some this year. Ronald Patrick, from Cocoa, Florida, played on two state championships down there, Tramell Williams from Jacksonville, and A.J. Cann, South Carolina kid, all threes of these freshmen linemen have been there since June the 1st. There's a chance they could come in and play a bunch this year as true freshmen.
Q. There's a story out there that seems to be drawing Weslye Saunders more deeply into this agent story. From what you know, are you expecting any sort of suspension of him? If he's not available for you, how does that impact your offense?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, all I know is about what all of you fellas know, or the world knows now. He went with several players on a trip to Miami, I think during spring break. I guess the question is, who paid for it. Who paid for what they did while they was there. When the investigation is finished, I guess we'll find out about all the guys.
I've talked to him briefly. He told me he's done nothing wrong. We'll let it play out.
Q. What kind of reports are you getting about Stephen Garcia in his off-season workouts?
COACH SPURRIER: The whole team has been to all of them. That's the report I got. We've had pretty close to a hundred percent attendance, all the scholarship guys and so forth. That's the report I've heard. That's pretty good.
Yeah, they stay out and throw the ball around a little bit. I haven't watched them do that. I got to wait till August the 3rd, I think it is, that we can go out and start pitching the ball around a little bit.
Q. You mentioned your golf game. You remember back in 1971, the Golden Isles Invitational in Brunswick, you tied for the championship losing to Bill Plaguer. Is your game that good now?
COACH SPURRIER: I lost to Andy Bean one year in that one year, too. I used to scrape around a little better back then.
Q. Losing people like Clifton Geathers and Eric Norwood on defense, and you got seven starters back. But is the defense going to be back up to that level?
COACH SPURRIER: We think our defense is going to play as well, maybe get some more turnovers. We didn't get as many turnovers as we had hoped last year. But inside, Travian Robertson and Ladi Ajiboye, we think, are two really good tacklers. Cliff Matthews, defensive end, all conference pre-season player there.
Secondary-wise, Stephon Gilmore, Akeem Auguste, and Chris Culliver, they were all starters last year. DeVonte Holloman back there also . We return a lot of guys that can play.
Who is going to make all the sacks the way Norwood did, we have to wait to find out. Cliff Matthews is a player that is in the best shape of his life. He's here today. Up to 270, 275 now. Real fast defensive end. We think we're going to have a real good defense and hopefully get a few more turnovers this year.
Q. Are the rivalries between coaches as intense as ever? Who do you consider to be the biggest coaching rivalry of your career?
COACH SPURRIER: Oh, I've really not paid a lot of attention to that, to tell you the truth. Just really try to look when we're getting ready to play an opponent, we don't really look at the coach much; we look at their scheme of offense, defense, special teams, their players and so forth, really try to give our players the best plan to win the game. Really, I don't look at the other coach that much at all, to tell you the truth.
Some coaches I like a little better than others, obviously. Some of 'em are sort of pretty good buddies. Some of them I don't talk to much. That's probably true of all coaches everywhere.
Q. You mentioned turnovers on defense. Do you think part of it is simply hanging on to the football when you have the opportunities to get those interceptions? On offense, is there a chance we might see Stephon Gilmore on offense in a wildcat type of situation?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, that's true. We dropped maybe a few interceptions last year - several actually. I know Coach Lorenzo Ward does all he can with the ball drills. We even got the machine, the jug machine out there shooting at the defensive backs all spring. Hopefully that's going to help us a bit.
The wildcat formation, certainly we need to do that a little bit more. Sometimes when your wildcat guys, your starting defensive corner, your punt return guy, which Stephon does, sometimes defensive coaches, when you say we need him over for about 15 minutes, they look at you funny like he's got a lot to do over here also.
But we will have that package available. I think it's only smart to have it available every game when you got a player like Stephon that can do it. We probably should have used it more last year. We waited till the 12th game to use it. But we should use it a little bit more.
Q. Talking about calling plays, following up on that with Stephon Gilmore, the spread, are you scripting more plays now than you did in the past? Have you ever done that?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, we script them in practice.
Q. On game day?
COACH SPURRIER: On game day you have your little list in sections and so forth. Probably a little bit more scripting type stuff than I used to do. I remember in my early days at Florida, we just come to the ballpark, start calling plays, find out which ones worked. That's what somebody asked me one time. How do you call plays? You just start calling them. The ones that work, you call a little bit more than the ones that don't work. It's really not all that complicated.
Q. Garcia led the team in interceptions in the rest the first couple years. How much has he matured as a person and then as a quarterback? How much do you miss Lane Kiffin?
COACH SPURRIER: I think Stephen has grown up a lot. He had all of his problems early there. He did have some problems. We believe he's matured, grown up, is a different person.
But the former Tennessee coach, I didn't really pay a lot of attention. We had our own problems. We got our own problems over there at South Carolina. I didn't pay a lot of attention to him, to tell you the truth.
Q. When you first came to South Carolina, you talked about the need to change the culture to a winning culture. Do you think you've turned the corner and have a lot of things going in the right direction?
COACH SPURRIER: I think I said 'change the attitude.' Our attitude around there has not changed. It's not changed to where we hope to be someday. We hope to be a team that can compete for the SEC year in and year out. That's what you hope to be. We haven't got there yet.
Can we recruit the caliber of players to do that? That's the question right there. Can we recruit close to Florida, Alabama and those guys, LSU, so forth? We're probably very difficult to ever be ranked ahead of those schools in the recruiting rankings.
The glamour schools are going to recruit all the top guys.
But what you got to hope and believe can happen is that your 40, 45 players can play with their 40 or 45 that are going to play that day. Then you got to hope and believe you can out-play them or make a play and eliminate mistakes, this, that, and the other.
I know some years at Florida, my last year at Florida, we had the best team in the conference and didn't win it. We had the best team in 2001. We beat LSU during the season 47-15, and they won the conference that year because Tennessee beat us the last game, and we lost to Tennessee 34-32. That was maybe as good a team as the '96 team. But we didn't win anything that year.
It can happen that the best team doesn't always win.
Q. How did your all-SEC ballot go this year?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, have Jevan Snead No. 1. Somebody told me he wasn't playing this year (laughter).
Yeah, I handled that very poorly last year. That was not worth all the drama that we put into it. But my director of operations got a raise out of the deal anyway. So anyway.
Q. You talked about that 2001 Florida team. Given the last decade, whether any part of you wishes you never left Florida to begin with?
COACH SPURRIER: No, no, no. I love Florida and always will. But I'd been there 12 years. There's something about a 10-, 12- year stay. I really believe that. Some people don't. I think I'd been there 12 years. At the time I thought I wanted to coach in the NFL five or six years, then that would be about the end of it.
It's sort of funny how you keep coaching, you feel about the same way as you did five or six years ago. I'm always asked, How much longer you going to coach?
I always have the same answer, Four or five years. I said that when I was 50, Four or five more years.
As we know, those years go fast. If you're fortunate enough to be in good health, this, that, and the other, and your enthusiasm is still up for it, certainly you got a chance to continue on. I'm pumped up about this year. I like our team. I like our team. I don't know what's gonna happen. But we got a lot of players that you really like there at South Carolina.
Q. You just mentioned 2001, leaving Florida. I think I remember you saying that when you left, you just felt like it was time to go. Is that something you think a lot of coaches feel or is that more just your feeling, once you've been there for 10, 12 years, there's not much more really you can do?
COACH SPURRIER: I can't speak for other coaches. You'll have to ask them that. Of course, that's the longest I'd ever been anywhere, was those 12 years. Again, in the back of my mind, I thought I wanted to coach in the NFL. If I maybe had known the lifestyle of NFL coaches, I may not have wanted to. Sometimes you got to go do something and realize maybe this isn't what I need to do after all.
But, now, the NFL is good for a lot of coaches. There's a lot of coaches, man, they love coaching football. They can sit in the film room or video room and they can watch tape all afternoon and love it year-round. I can't do that year-round. That gets to me a little bit. I'd rather be doing other things.
I think it really is two styles of coaching, NFL and college. I really think it's a little different. Some guys love one, some guys love the other.
Q. You mentioned Southern Miss. Their coach has been talking a little trash. What is your reaction and your players' reaction? How big is that game kicking off the season?
COACH SPURRIER: The first game is the next game. Everything we'll do will be in preparation for Southern Miss. Got asked about the Georgia game earlier. That's way down the line after the Southern Miss game. That's the next one.
No, I don't think -- they haven't talked that much trash. They're trying to get excited about a national TV game, which we can understand. But certainly our players will know they're coming in here to kick our tails on our home field. We got to be ready 'cause they're a good team. We got to be ready to play.
But we should be ready to play all of 'em anyway. I've never been a big believer in the talk bit helping anybody. But certainly if somebody says something that you think can put a little extra fire in your guys, you got to let them know about it.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH SPURRIER: Good to be here. See you.
End of FastScripts