COACH STEVE SPURRIER
I appreciate all of you hanging around. I figured everybody would be gone by now.
It's good to be back. As I have said to most all the other media people, I have missed you guys. (Laughter) even the ones that wrote not real nice things maybe about me. That's okay. It was a lot more fun hanging around the SEC than it was the other League I was in a couple of years. But it's good to be back. I thank our president and our athletic director for hiring me, giving me the opportunity to coach again in the SEC. South Carolina is a school with all the resources to be successful. We have not done all that much in the past but everything is there as far as facility, stadium, fans, the alumni give generously to the school. Everything is there for us to do it. So we have absolutely no excuses not to get it done.
We're excited about this coming season. We were tremendously encouraged about the recruiting class we had this year. Some people said you can't recruit in South Carolina, you can't beat Georgia and Tennessee and Florida for some players, but we did. So that was exciting that we can recruit outstanding student athletes to come to the Palmetto state because it's a wonderful place and the fans there had been wonderful to their team. They haven't received much in return, so we're going to try to give them something to be proud of and hopefully real soon they will be proud of their football team at the University of South Carolina. So we are excited to be there. Got a pretty good team ready to go. We'll see what we can do as we go through the season. Questions.
Q. This is just happening out of Columbia, South Carolina high school association has -- the executive committee has asked the high school to take all state championship games away from Williams-Brice stadium because of the scholarship just revoked, can you comment on that?
STEVE SPURRIER: We have commented on that earlier. They were negotiating with our athletic director about doing the state championship game there prior so this is not -- they didn't have a contract to do it there, is my understanding.
But what happened when I got to the University of South Carolina they had a few guys on scholarship that according to some coaches they had no other Division I offers and basically we had two or three walk-on players that were really more deserving and contributed more to our team so as a head coach what I have always done is reward the guys that are contributors that go to all the workouts; that do everything coaches ask them to do. Every now and then you may have a walk-on player that you feel has earned it more and more deserves it than a guy that had to be on scholarship. So I am not trying to knock some guys we sent letters that we may not revoke their scholarship but that was the situation we were in that there were some players, former staff had signed and we did not think, whatever, contributed much. We had some walk-on players who were actually contributing more. So some of the high schoolers, they got mad about it. I don't know what to say but to me and life you put people on scholarship who deserve it the most and that's what we tried to do.
Q. There's obviously a lack of discipline there before you got there. Have you found a lot of resistance to your style of discipline since you have been there?
STEVE SPURRIER: Not really, no. We're going to do the program the right way there and some things happened, the biggest thing happened when I guess the athletic director announced that there was not going to be a Bowl Game because the fight with Clemson which was a real nasty event for both schools, really was. Terrible. Both schools deserved whatever punishment of no Bowl Game that happened, I think.
So some players took some things out of the stadium. We have three players that --former players that took some laptop computers. They have since been returned, but we had about five players that actually took their picture off the wall. For some reason they had all the players pictures, those guys got arrested for taking their picture off the wall. They are part of the arrest group. I know sometimes in college I probably personally did some things I wasn't very proud of, but taking your picture off the wall and bringing it back I didn't think deserved quite the national punishment that those guys got. But anyway, those are -- some of those guys are still back on the team. Then we had some stealing incidents. We are not going to have guys that steal on the team. Sometimes you need some guys to maybe go by the wayside to tell the other guys if you are going to play football at South Carolina and be a student athlete, got to do things the right way. Simple as that.
Q. How have you been received by the League coaches since you have come back? What are a couple of key elements that have kept South Carolina from getting the top three in the east?
STEVE SPURRIER: I think I have been received okay. Got a lot of new coaches. Sitting around the meetings with a bunch of new guys that are here now; that weren't four years ago or three years ago, I guess. Hopefully those guys, you know, until we start beating everybody, nobody is going to worry too much about South Carolina. Hopefully we can start beating some good teams and they may start to be of a concern to them. Other question?
Q. Elements that kept -- -
STEVE SPURRIER: I don't have the answer to that. I am not into what happened in the past there. But could have asked me that in 1990 - what kept Florida from being a Championship-type team. I didn't have the answer for that either. But we absolutely have no excuses at South Carolina because all the facilities are there, the fans, the stadium, the fans generously donate to the booster organization, so financially we're in good shape. No excuses.
Q. How have you seen an emphasis in the passing game change in the SEC from the time you were a player and also from the time you took over Florida?
STEVE SPURRIER: Well certainly when I got there in 1990 the idea or what everybody thought to win the conference Championship you had to play defense, and run the ball. That was the two things you had to do. You couldn't be a passing team at all and win the conference championship. That was sort of the thinking. So we proved that you can throw the ball and also you need to run it, play defense, and special teams and so forth. So we were pretty important that the -- that the defenses were not all that sophisticated against the pass. Now everybody has got fast players, and they disguise, they are all over the place, you don't know what they are playing, and it was a lot easier in the early '90s. Then it got to be a little bit later, although Rex Grossman didn't have much trouble with them in 2001, but that was a special bunch.
Q. Any similarities to this rebuilding job than what you took over in Florida at the time?
STEVE SPURRIER: It could be. Both schools were under investigation. A lot of people didn't know we were at South Carolina. Everybody knew Florida was back in '90 although the only one violation that they said occurred - and it never was proven - was that the head coach paid the child support payment four years prior in 1986 so that was why that '90 team in Florida was put on probation which was very unfair, but that's another story.
This investigation at South Carolina has been going on for three years, some things that had happened, I mean, you read them, some were considered major, I mean, nothing to do with cash and payments and things of that nature, I don't know if any of them gave a competitive advantage but there were rules broken and we did offer to give up a couple scholarships and hopefully the NCAA will accept that and move on.
The records were similar. The records had been similar. 6 and 6, 7-5, 5-7. South Carolina was 5-7, I think a couple of years ago. But records were a little bit similar prior three years.
Q. You have said a number of times since you got there that your quarterback situation is really pretty wide open.
STEVE SPURRIER: Start coaching them August 2. Our players report the night of August 1 since we play September the 1, Thursday night, ESPN against Central Florida, so we'll find out if they are capable of getting in there and getting in the mix with Blake Mitchell and Antonio Hefner.
Q. Do they get the same number of reps going in?
STEVE SPURRIER: They will early. All these quarterbacks will get a lot of reps early and then after about a couple of weeks then we'll start getting maybe two guys ready and go from there. But they will all be pretty equal that first week or so
Q. What if anything specifically did you learn from your time in that other League that you are going to apply to South Carolina and how come that didn't work out with the Redskins?
STEVE SPURRIER: Well, one thing I always get asked what is the difference. The biggest difference is at college, the head coach is the head coach of the team. He runs the team. He's in control. He has authority over his team. You have athletic director and a president and in the NFL some of them have general managers and some of them don't and the owners. In every organization does it a little differently but every college team that I know of the head coach is not influenced in the AD and the president, they don't come tell him what to do unless he's cheating or losing too much. Then that's when you have issues. I know we're not going to cheat and I hope we're not going to lose too much. Hopefully I am not going to see the president and the AD talking football with me. That was a little difference there. But I don't know, I think you learn a greater appreciation for all coaches, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs they both went 6 and 10 last year. That's what we averaged, we were 12 and 20, I think John Gruden Tampa Bay has been 12 and 20 over the last two years. It can go that way unfortunately, and sometimes the head coach maybe about as good as his team is as we have learned in life, and obviously I was lucky to have a lot of great teams in Florida, no question about it. But I think you learn a much greater appreciation that all coaches work their tails off to try to give their players the best chance to win the game and sometimes it doesn't work out.
Q. The situation were that high school association, how concerned are you at all if that may affect recruiting in state?
STEVE SPURRIER: I will talk to you about that when we get back. I answered that the just a minute ago that our policy is to reward guys that earn it and deserve it and we'll get into all that when we back get back there.
Q. Are you like the Red Sox suffering from the chicken curse -- (inaudible)?
STEVE SPURRIER: We hadn't talked about that too much and again I don't know if they said there was a curse on Florida. What did we have at Florida, any of you guys remember the reason why didn't have any official championships prior to 90? I don't know. But no, we don't believe in that too much. We saw when the Red Sox finally won so they got rid of their curse. But hopefully and I bring this game up because most of you guys might have been there 1990 when we beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa the second game I have coached in Florida, I said that was a game whatever black cloud hovered over Gator football was blown away that day because we won a game, didn't play very well. I remember a local writer Bill King, he wrote "this day was a strange day," he said "because Florida played like Alabama and Alabama played like Florida" so we sort of got it reversed that day. I am hoping that we have a game with a strong opponent; that we don't play very well but something happens we hang in there and maybe block a punt or whatever, maybe win the game. If that happens, then all those curses and black clouds and jinxes, hopefully that will be knocked away that day or night.
Q. Do you feel your name recognition and success that you had at Florida did that make it easier transition for your team to adopt your style and get on the same page when you came in?
STEVE SPURRIER: I would hope so. I hope we're going to have fast players that can run and catch, play defense and so forth. As we all know, team speed is a big, big part of football. We actually I think had 24, 25 players that ran four, five or better at South Carolina this past at the end of winter conditioning when we did our testing. So hopefully we can play close to how we did there. We're going to try. But if we don't have quite the players to do it then obviously we have to be a little more conservative. We try not to go backwards and maybe a little bit more after running team, I don't know.
Q. You brought in John Thompson and Tyrone Nix. What made you decide to go with co-defensive coordinators and who is going to be on the booth?
STEVE SPURRIER: Tyrone was defensive coordinator at Southern Miss last year. We were able to get him to come with us. John Thompson hired him, I think, a week before, and I said maybe allowing Tyrone also to have that title with John and he said, hey, we have worked together, I think five years at Southern Miss. He said, that's no problem at all to get Tyrone with us, that's a big plus, so they are both influential. I think John Thompson is going to be the main defensive caller, but he will have input from Tyrone certainly, and also our secondary coach Dave Whamming (phonetic), Dave was with him at Southern Miss, I think five years also so we have got three defensive guys with that Southern Miss background that all, you know, those guys have got a history of playing super defense there at Southern Miss. I think an excellent defensive staff. Very good offensive staff, got some young guys, my line coaches with me John Hunt, my son Steve is actually going in his 7th year coaching on one of our teams, so we got some familiarity and we know what we're doing hopefully.
Q. Tyrone will be in the booth?
STEVE SPURRIER: Dave Wammer definitely will be up top. He's secondary coach, I am not so sure. Both of them may be on the sideline.
Q. Talk about status of Corey Boyd?
STEVE SPURRIER: Got some issues, athletic department policy they are going to be settled this weekend from what I understand. Talked to the associate AD today, he said hopefully by this weekend his situation will be settled.
Q. Phillip Fulmer was up here and his initial reaction to hearing you were joining the League was "oh, crap." Do you like it that your presence affords such a reaction?
STEVE SPURRIER: We need to -- like I said, we need to beat somebody first before those guys are going to worry about South Carolina, and some people are trying to make us one of their rivals when we have not beaten very much or if at all, so you know, hopefully we can get a little respect but we have got to earn it. We have got to beat some people, we can't just say hey, Spurrier is coaching South Carolina, that's not going to mean much to players. They are going to watch the tapes and going to see what kind of players we have got, they may say those guys aren't worth a dang or they will say they are pretty good. I don't know. Anyway --
Q. What kind of conversations if any did you have with Urban Meyer? Does he strike you as having the kind of temperament that can handle the kind of expectations of Florida?
STEVE SPURRIER: He has had excellent track record. He's done well. No reason to think he's not going to do well there. But again, my job is not to promote all the coaches around the league. That's your job. (Laughter) I am not here promoting them. That's your guys job right there.
Q. When you came to Florida in '90 similar in that they were on probation or being investigated. You had to search for a quarterback. Talk about the talent level. In 1990 you inherited a talented team and turned them into winners.
STEVE SPURRIER: The '90 team in Florida was very close talentwise with the '96 National Championship team, really was. We just hadn't been together that long. Had two losses, but the other nine games I think we won fairly convincingly. I don't think any of the other nine were -- Alabama game was the only close one of the nine victories. But yeah, that team returned 8 starters on our defense. It was third in the nation in 1989, so I knew we're going to be very good on defense and we had players on offense, they just hadn't had a chance to do anything. Players had some big strong offensive linemen. Shane Matthews came from basically nowhere, what Shane did, he understood what we're trying to do, very smart guy, he's still playing in the NFL, he's with the Buffalo Bills, 14th season, obviously he was a very talented player.
Q. 26 newcomers, if qualified, have you decided who is going to be enrolled -- -
STEVE SPURRIER: We haven't made that call yet, we got to do that real soon. Only bring in 25, and we got to make that call right now and hopefully it will work out well. Hadn't made the call yet on that.
Q. How difficult is it to break in a new quarterback in this League at this level? What are the keys to success in doing that?
STEVE SPURRIER: Well, it's difficult to play quarterback unless you got a good running game and big strong offensive line, all those kind of things. So we are not -- I don't think we're going to be a team to just open up and start firing maybe the way we did in the Florida days. We may need to, you know, protect the quarterback a little bit more, let him hand off and this that and the other until he seems like he's ready to do the kind of things we did back then. So if our defense plays extremely well, which I think we have a chance to do, I think we got a chance to have a real good defense. Then obviously we don't want to beat ourselves with turnovers and going backwards and things like that. So we'll do what we can try to do to win the game and I don't know if -- where the quarterbacks will be by September 1.
Q. Are we really to believe that you are going to be a completely different guy now and not be that loud and bite --
STEVE SPURRIER: I wasn't that quite loud and arrogant as all of you thought because all of our cute comments usually occurred at the Gator clubs in the middle of the summer. When you are talking to your booster people they want to hear something funny. Bobby Bowden has told Gator jokes for years. We don't think a thing about it. It doesn't bother us but you know, I go to one of these things and tell something and it gets all over the country. I never said those things during the season. It was just summer talk, but I learned and these guys that followed me to the 15th game cotton clubs meetings they didn't hear any jokes about any schools. They thought I was going to try to say something cute about Clemson or Tennessee or Georgia. I don't think I ever did. It was uneventful for them, I guess. But I am just learning it doesn't pay to make cute remarks even though it's just in fun or jest with your booster people.
Q. You have got some buildings blocks with your two offensively tackles and a couple of them in the secondary as well. Talk about how you are going to be able to fill in in the other positions?
STEVE SPURRIER: They got a chance to be real good players. They can play a lot better than they have played in the past. Hopefully we can get it out of them. They are two big strong guys. White is a pretty good center. Two guards have not played at all yet. We got, I think, some strong players to fill in there. But we got a long way to go in that offensive line, running backs, receivers, cornerbacks, so we're a little bit more unknown on offense than we're on defense right now.
Q. You turned it around at Tampa Bay and Duke and Florida. Was that the overriding appeal to the South Carolina job?
STEVE SPURRIER: I think it was a little bit. I told my wife I said you know what, this retirement or I am not good enough to play golf year-round, I get tired of that real fast, some of you guys play well enough you probably play year-round but I can't do it. I am golfed out. Four months is enough for me. I said I need to go coach somewhere. Then this opportunity popped up and she said why there. I said well first of all, it's in the south, it's in the SEC. Get to play against the same guys I have been playing for twelve years. Everything is there to be successful and yet they have never quite done it. 1969 they would be the ACC champion, they went 7 and 4 actually that year, I don't think they went to a Bowl game that year. Did they?
Q. Peach Bowl.
STEVE SPURRIER: Just checking to see if he knew that. (Laughs).
Q. Lost it?
STEVE SPURRIER: Okay. I should have known that. We were 6-0 in the ACC in 1969 the year of the rooster -- by the way, you know what that is, Chinese rooster, every twelve years is the year of the rooster. Anyway, '05 is the year of the rooster, so don't bet too much against the gamecocks even though we're underdogs. I am not -- I am just saying we have got the rooster on our side. '69 was a rooster year that we won our only championship and we have got the rooster year on our side. That's all I am saying, we got it really going for us right now.
Q. Do you like the replay system that the SEC is going to use or would you prefer the challenge --
STEVE SPURRIER: I like what we're doing in college. It eliminates the coaches from even considering challenging this one or that one. If the head ref has a call that well, we're not sure of, let's check it out, we got technology now to get it right. And I think it's a smart move and hopefully the head ref can make a quick call and look at it and make a decision and go. And not hold the game up to much. But football is so important, players, they train work out year-round, coaches watch tape all summer, do everything and fans, you know, hate to lose a game because a referee missed a call. So if we get it right I think that's what we should do.
Q. When you look at the schedule you say there aren't a lot of rivals yet for you but I know when you were at Florida, Georgia was always a special game, you get them early in your season. What about that game and any others that jump off the schedule to you first years back in the League?
STEVE SPURRIER: They are all going to be important. Obviously Georgia is our first conference game then Alabama. Alabama, we get them the third game or they get us one or the other. But they come to our place we got 7 home games. And next year too. Hopefully when we play 12 we might have 8 home games. I don't know if that will work out or not. But obviously we're going to try to make Williams-Brice stadium a tough place for an opponent to come back and beat us. I know our fans will come screaming and yelling but we need to play well at home. So we are excited about 7 home games and going from there.
Q. More and more Division I quarterbacks down in the depth chart that transfer. Talk about the dilemma with coaches having enough quarterbacks and kids trying to get their playing time and then decide to leave after a year?
STEVE SPURRIER: That's going to happen. I think two top quarterbacks come to a school; one of them beats the other one out and the other one thinks maybe he can go start and play somewhere else. Personally I think maybe that's not bad. That's okay. So quarterbacks transferring around, I think is going to happen somewhat. Other players, you don't see other players that say a wide receiver if he wasn't very good here he's probably not going to be very good at the other place but the quarterback position I think is a little different in that if you get behind a top guy you know, it might be best to go somewhere elsewhere you can play.
Q. Talk about the possibility of having to rely on freshmen running backs coming into the season especially a Corey Boyd who is not able to play --
STEVE SPURRIER: I think as coaches we all have said running backs wide receivers and defensive backs have the best chance to play as freshmen because they are probably big and strong enough to do it whereas linemen need to train, lift, work out for two, three years to really hit their top potential but we're excited about Mike Davis, Bobbie Wallace is one of the strongest kids we got there. He's only about five foot eight, was about 185. He's fast, tough, strong, and I think he's going to be a real football player for us really is. And so is Mike Davis. So if we're playing some freshmen running backs that's okay we're building, we're going to be there a while. This is not a one-year stint. So we are trying to win all we can this year and at the same time looking towards the future. If we have freshmen that is just as good as older guys, may have a tendency to play those guys a little bit more as we think about the future.
Q. The BCS has undergone pretty significant change since you were last in the League. Can you tell us what you think of those changes and also are you still dismayed that there's no progress in moving towards a Playoff since you left the League?
STEVE SPURRIER: My idea about that Playoff has changed a little bit got to admit because I don't think I need to worry about it right now. (Laughter) .
When I was coaching the Florida team I thought we ought to get 8 or 16 teams and go play it down. I figured we would be one of 16. But oh, I still firmly believe that the Playoff is best way to do it. Since it's not going to happen there's no sense of worrying about it and talking about it. So since there isn't one whatever method trying to get two teams at the end, you know, is fine. I am just glad they weren't doing that in 1996 because we with not have been in the final game. We would have been watching Arizona State playing FSU and FSU might have had another National Championship if they had the BCS back in 96. But they had the deal where we went to the Sugar Bowl and Ohio State knocked off Arizona State in the Rose Bowl. So we count our good fortune that there wasn't a BCS back in 96.
Q. Do you see similarities differences in South Carolina Clemson say to Florida and FSU?
STEVE SPURRIER: A little bit instate rival; they are in ACC, we're in SEC. Very simple there. Obviously Clemson hadn't been of the stat tour of FSU but they have got a lot of good players at Clemson. I saw -- of course being up there we read about the ACC a little bit. You don't read much when you are living down in Gainsville. You guys don't cover ACC too much down there. Clemson was picked fourth in their Division of the ACC we were picked fourth in our Division, which is probably where we should be right now, so there's some similarities, ACC, SEC right now we're both picked fourth in the Division for whatever that's worth. Hopefully neither one of us will ends up there. Hopefully we will both do better. South Carolina fans may not like for me to say that, but I am pulling for our state also. I think the state of South Carolina is something that all of us that live there should promote somewhat also.
Q. Just curious what would it mean to you personally to beat Florida?
STEVE SPURRIER: I don't have to worry about that today. I got to worry about that that week. As a coach, as a guy that calls the plays, my mind is usually just on what to call the next play. That's usually my thoughts throughout the course of a game. So but our next game central Florida. That's the one that that's the one that concerns us the next -- the most right now, Central Florida.
Q. Williams-Brice stadium it's not very catchy name. You came up were the Swamp in Florida. Working on a name for it?
STEVE SPURRIER: I don't know if we ever called it that way. Too complicated. No nickname yet for Williams-Brice stadium. We have had a lot of suggestions. Of course being the gamecocks and gamecock fighting is illegal now of course, so we try to refrain from cockpit and things of that nature, the birds fight in, but I think the best idea is some guy wrote me a letter just wait and until something happens during the course of a game then maybe we'll find a nickname then. But we'd like to find one if we could. We just haven't found one that everybody likes yet.
Q. Ever been a time in your career when you had to maybe depend on your defense as much as you might have to this year?
STEVE SPURRIER: Well we don't know that yet. We're not sure about that, but we have had some very good defensive teams that at Florida in those years. But actually our defensive team at Duke in '89 wasn't all that bad, but whatever it takes to win the game is what every coach has got to try to do. But we're going to try to definitely hold our end up on offense. As you know, actually the offense beat the defense in both scrimmages last spring, did you know that? I don't like to tell people that. Our defense had a bad day, they did. One of our guys is back there he will tell you, yeah.
Q. Can you give an update on the physical condition of Noah Whitesides whether he will be able to practice come next Tuesday?
STEVE SPURRIER: Noah was supposed to run I heard today. He's running a bit. So Noah is a guy that had a fractured ankle right above his ankle very similar to what Terrell Owens had in our spring game. That was really the only injury, serious injury the whole spring. He should be close to being full speed and he has got to pass some courses to be eligible this summer, so he has got some work to do between now and first game.
Q. It's only been a few years, other than the coaching changes, you see any differences in the SEC after just a few years away?
STEVE SPURRIER: Just faster stronger athletes on every team. I see I watched the tape, all the defensive teams there, they are all over the place, you can't get a good feel on exactly what they are playing until the ball is snapped. The disguise part has come in much greater than it used to be. But to me what makes SEC the best conference are the fans. The stadiums are the largest. I can't say we have had the best teams necessarily because there's a lot of good ones, Oklahoma and Southern Cal have probably been the two best the last three, four years. But the fan interest and the passion of the crowd is I think what makes us the best football conference. As far as who has got the best teams, we have had to have a Playoff to determine that. You'd have to have a Playoff you know, bunch of SEC teams play the Pac-10, Big-12 and ACC and you know, see what happened there. But since that's not going to happen, we'll let you sports writers argue it out.