The following is a transcript of comments by South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier at 2012 SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL, as provided by the Southeastern Conference:
Good to be with you media guys again and girls. Told my wife as I was leaving, I said, "You know what, I've been to this thing 20 years now."
But you guys have been here 30, 40 years, some of you (smiling). They don't fire media people, we found that out.
I've been fortunate to be here. I do say 'fortunate' to be able to coach in the SEC. This is the 20th year. I feel blessed and fortunate to be here.
We've got a good team. We've had some good teams at South Carolina the last couple years. That's probably why I'm still coaching. Our teams are getting better. We've recruited better guys, got an excellent group of assistant coaches, our athletic directors and boosters have built up the facilities up to the best in the conference and we've been able to recruit outstanding players.
We've still not won the SEC. That's our ultimate goal. We know it's not going to be easy. It would be extremely difficult. But that's our goal. That's what we're shooting for. Who knows if it can work out for us this coming here.
Again, we lost a lot of good players. We had six guys drafted by the NFL, a couple first‑rounders. Alshon Jeffery, early second round, Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gillmore. We lost a bunch of good ones. Hopefully the next guys will be ready to step up and it will give us a chance to be very competitive this year and have another big season.
We also understand that we could fall flat on our face if we don't really prepare well and get ready for every game. First game is against Vandy, national TV, Thursday night game. We already started talking a little bit about that because that's our next opponent.
Other than that, our team for the season should be very healthy, ready to go, looking forward to see what we can achieve in 2012.
How realistically did you think you could compete for a division title and a SEC title when you came in? How quick? You always hope you can do it real quickly. I think we just didn't put together a team that was quite capable as quickly. I think we've assembled better players, better coaches, maybe a better strength coach, trainer, equipment guy, the whole bit.
But again, we got to go play the games. Last year we won most of our close games. Connor Shaw came on, played very efficiently. I think the last four games of the season, he was the highest‑rated passer quarterback in the country. He completed about 74%, eight touchdowns, only one pick, and ran for about 280 yards. We only threw 18 passes per game. We're pretty much a 40‑, 45‑run, 20‑pass type team last year.
We may be that way this year. If we can't throw it very well, we're not going to try to. With Marcus Lattimore coming back full speed, plus a bunch of other guys, ran the ball very well. Brandon Wiles and Kenny Miles did. Whatever we need to do to try to win the games is what we have to do.
Defensively we've been very sound the last several years. We finished third in the conference behind Alabama, LSU last year. Got a lot of guys back. Hopefully they'll all play well.
Could you talk a little more about the quarterback. Doesn't seem to be in the mold of a lot of quarterbacks you've had over the years. You're right, Connor is a little different. Our whole style offense is different than in years past. Our sports information guy, he said, Coach, this is the first year since you've been at South Carolina you brought a quarterback to this media day.
I said, That's right, isn't it?
Then somebody asked me how I selected my players to come.
I said, Well, we select them on, first of all, guys we think represent our university and our football program in a first‑class manner, know how to talk to the media, what to say, so forth.
Connor is a player, his dad is a head high school coach. That sort of tells you his upbringing. He's been around football his whole life, pretty much dedicated to that. He doesn't have a lot of outside interests other than be the best quarterback he can to help our team win games and be successful, and hopefully win an SEC.
Again, Connor is a running and passing quarterback. He's both. I've never quite had one that's been maybe a little bit better runner than he is passer. Hopefully he'll be a little bit better passer this year, but he's still going to keep running the ball because that's what he does very well.
Can you speak about the quality of your defensive line, how can you lose a player like Melvin Ingram and still have one of the best defensive lines in the conference. We hope. We hope Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney, we think together those could be two of the best ends in the conference. Inside we lost Travian Robertson, and actually Melvin played inside quite a bit and some other positions. We think we got some good solid defensive tackles. We have all senior linebackers. I think all of them are fifth‑year guys. We got a lot of experience right there at the linebacker position.
But D‑line, we have had some very good D‑linemen there.
This is year number eight for you. You're starting to have quality depth all across your roster. Talk about that and how beneficial is that. You also seem energetic like you were at your Florida days. Do you think this is a team or a team or two away that you can bring home the SEC championship? Well, we hope we can, but we realize we're not favored like we usually were those years at Florida. We got some teams certainly ranked ahead of us. That's okay.
Yeah, going into the eighth year, again, we've sort of assembled I think better players, coaches, everything around us that gives us a chance to be successful. We don't know what's going to happen till we start playing the games.
We were coming over. A Sanders, Connor Shaw, D.J. Swearinger, I said, Ace, you and Connor, you came in together, right?
And we're not redshirting?
They are both going into their third ones and they got another. D.J. is going into his fourth, he was never redshirted.
I said, That's right, back when you guys were coming in, we didn't have many guys that had been here.
I remember in '05, '06, '07, '08, somewhere in there, we might have had five guys in their fourth year there. Nobody stuck around much. If you stuck around four or five years at South Carolina, you were something special. You were a good, solid citizen. Now we're actually talking about redshirting guys. If you don't play a lot, we're going to redshirt you, okay? But recruiting those guys, there wasn't much redshirting.
We're getting to where we redshirt at least half of them now‑ if we bring in 22, at least half of them or so. We're able to redshirt the offensive linemen. So many come in and played right away, which they weren't really ready.
As you know, when you have solid recruiting classes year after year, you're able to redshirt and actually have a bunch of fifth‑year guys. I think we have eight or nine fifth‑year guys, which may be a record at South Carolina.
I should also say that we're graduating the most guys we've ever had. We're setting records there. I think we led the SEC in grade point average on a football team this year also. So academically our guys are really, really doing well. That helps winning, as we know.
When you got to South Carolina, could you envision the possibility of you coaching there as long as you coached at Florida? You know, I was thinking eight or ten years when I took the job. I mentioned at a booster meeting before the first season that I'd like to try to be the winningest coach, which is only 65 wins would do it. I said that because I wanted people to know that I meant to be there for seven or eight, ten years, something like that, and not jump at the first best offer that came around.
I wanted to try to see what we could do at South Carolina. I just thought it was a state and a university with tremendous potential that maybe hadn't quite been run right. Or maybe with some new facilities, we'd have a chance to achieve stuff that never happened before.
Those years go by quickly and here we are in our eighth year. But it's very convenient and really it's not a stressful job I have. I know some of these coaches tell you how stressful their job is. We have excellent assistant coaches. These guys can go recruit, get guys committed. Coach, call this guy, he's going to commit to us. Give me the information on him. Just an excellent group of guys that can coach their positions and so forth.
It's not a stressful job.
Health‑wise, I feel a lot better than I did last year. I have me a new knee. Had a knee replacement, four surgeries on my right knee. It was just worn out. And we got the best teams I think of the last several years, and hopefully this year, that we've had there.
Every time some sportswriter asks me how much longer I'm going to coach, I think I need to ask him, How much longer are you going to write? What's the difference.
What do you think of the two new entries to the league? Yeah, I think Texas A&M and Missouri are going to be extremely competitive. I think they're going to win a bunch of games. Wouldn't surprise me if they weren't in the hunt to win a division or so. I think they may be right up in there.
I think the two crucial games are obviously Georgia and Missouri early and Florida and Texas A&M early. Think those are two interesting ballgames. I hope we're playing at a different hour that I can watch both of those live. I think those will be very interesting for all of us.
You mentioned Connor, having to get him to pass more. How difficult is that, to teach a guy to think pass first or even 50/50 and get him SEC ready? Well, he's working on it. Again, he's only played about half a year as a starter. Through all the practice, making decisions back there, practice, practice, I think he's going to get better. He certainly should get better.
We do a lot of different little play‑action stuff. He's out of the pocket a lot. Connor is 6', maybe 6'1". He's the kind of guy we move around quite a bit. He can throw on the run. He can do a lot of that kind of stuff.
Again, I don't know if we'll be a big passing team or a big running team again. Probably be more of a running team, play defense, pick your spots to throw the ball. That's not a bad formula. A little different than what I've coached in the past. As all of us know, you can win a bunch of ballgames doing it that way.
Your schedule shows an open date before Arkansas, a non‑conference game after Arkansas, no Florida after Arkansas. In light of how tough that game has been, how much it hurt y'all last year, has the Arkansas game taken on more significance for you to win and is that why your schedule is set that way? You think I make the schedule (smiling)? If I made the schedule, Georgia would be playing LSU and we'd be playing Ole Miss (laughter).
We don't make the schedule. We're not complaining about that.
No, Arkansas, they played well against us. Auburn's played well against us. Amazingly we've lost seven games in the last two years, and five of them are to Arkansas and Auburn. They've had our number. Auburn beat us twice in 2010, championship game. So they've had our number. They've beaten us pretty good.
No, we're going to worry about Arkansas the week of the game, just like we're going to worry about Clemson and Florida the week of the game. We don't talk about stuff like that.
We do recognize they have kicked our tails, so has Auburn. We've been pretty good against most of the other guys, but those two have had our number.
South Carolina has not traditionally recruited Texas heavily in the past. Will you do so in the future? No, we will not recruit Texas, no. We have plenty of ballplayers in South Carolina and our border states. We sort of call Florida a border state, but it's not. Florida, Georgia, North Carolina are mainly our targets right there, and our state. We're not going to go into Texas and compete against Oklahoma, Texas, all them guys.
If there's a connection or something, somebody calls up, says that this guy wants to play at South Carolina, certainly we may do it then.
I'll tell you what has been sort of interesting. Today we had a one‑day football camp. I was there. We had 400 kids show up for a little one‑day football camp, from all over the place. Kids from Florida, New Jersey, all kind of places. So it was sort of neat.
I told our guys, Dang, we had about 400 guys come from all over to South Carolina. Sort of unusual. So we're getting a little bit of a name out there. We're still certainly not Alabama, LSU, some of those guys, but we're making a little bit of noise. We haven't made as much as we'd like to, but we've done some good things.
Finishing in the top 10 for the first time in school history was neat last year also.
Steve, was last year your best coaching job, considering everything? Well, I heard some of you guys say that. I don't really rank 'em. But I tell you what, we had a good team last year. Every game we won, we were favored to win. Did you know that? Think about it. I ask people that. Wait a minute, South Carolina is not going to be favored 11 out of 13 games. Actually we were favored 12 out of 13 games. People say that we under‑achieved.
We were favored over Auburn when they came in and beat us. So we may have under‑achieved last year. We didn't play Alabama and LSU, that's why we were favored.
You're a veteran coach, been around a long time. I wanted your take on what happened at Penn State. Well, obviously it's a terrible mess, terrible mess. I don't have the answers for this, that and the other.
The only thing I would say about Coach Paterno, when he coached college football, he did everything right. As a college football coach, he was a guy, I mean, he did things right. His teams played fair, fundamentally sound. He was always revered for doing the right things.
I don't want to get into the other side of a terrible, terrible situation. But as a college football coach, I remember him that way also.
I know you said the ultimate goal is still to win the SEC. When you talk about the last two years, from a personal standpoint, does it feel like it did, does it feel like Florida, a similar feel for you personally? Yeah, I think it's a tremendous feeling for all of us, all of us, when you do something for the first time in school history. I didn't realize we did so many at Florida. I don't think we talked about it that much. Did we?
I said, gosh, second year there, we won 10 games. First time in school history. We were so happy to beat FSU, because I think they had beaten us five years in a row, we forgot about 10 wins first time ever. Next year was 11, I think. We didn't write about it. These writers, they didn't think it was a big deal, I guess.
Anyway, but it is neat. It is neat and fun for the players involved, everybody on the team, fans, so forth. That one bowl, beating Nebraska for that 11th win, that was a special feeling for all of us, it really was.
You mentioned Marcus Lattimore. Do you think he was like he was before the injuries? Yeah, I think so. The doctors can do wonderful things now with those knee surgeries. We think we got one of the best in the country, Dr. Jeff Guy, that we think is certainly one of the best. Feels like he got a very good surgery. Marcus rehabbed it beautifully, done everything they asked and probably a little bit more. He should be ready to go.
Going back to even your Florida days, when was the last time you had this level of confidence or peace of mind in your quarterback position? Yeah, it is a little bit of peace of mind.
Yeah, we've struggled with just one quarterback a little bit here and there. At times Stephen Garcia played very well. At sometimes Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley, all those guys played pretty well at times. But we didn't have a real consistent game‑after‑game‑after‑game‑type quarterbacking.
So Connor, I mean, he's a guy, when it breaks down, he can run for the first down. That is so important. You can't call every play perfectly. All of a sudden sometimes the defense got a good defensive call for what you're trying to do. The quarterback come running out of there, make the first down, now you get to start all over again.
The importance of that is tremendous. Tim Tebow used to do it all the time at Florida. Come running out of there, make first down, keep going.
Anyway, he's a reliable guy. I think the players around him really enjoy playing with him.
All throughout your career you've been a heavy proponent of a playoff system over the Bowls. Now with the four‑team playoff, we're starting to move towards that. Would you like to see this move to an 8‑team or 16‑team format? Well, when I was calling the shots, I would have eight teams go play. We got six BCS conferences right now. If you can win your conference championship, one of these BCS conferences, you ought to have a chance to play for it all. Then you take two at‑large teams. If Notre Dame goes undefeated, maybe Houston or Southern Miss goes undefeated, maybe they deserve a spot to play for the national championship.
We all know in college baseball, Stony Brook was at the World Series. If they would have got hot, they could have won the national championship of college baseball. Butler College or Butler University now, they could have won the national championship in basketball a few years back, twice I guess.
But in college football, there's about 10, 12 teams realistically that have a shot at winning it. So I don't know. That way you could almost open it up if you had eight teams, take all of the conference champs, at least you could say, We had a shot, it didn't work out.
I don't guess we're ever going to do it that way. At least we have two more teams with a shot. I would like to see one more week of football, and that would be eight teams, 8‑4‑2. If I was doing it, that's the way I would do it. It's not going to happen, but anyway...
You talk about opening up against Vanderbilt. What do you think about the job James Franklin has done, the program? What kind of job do you think Lorenzo Ward doing replacing Ellis Johnson? He's got his guys believing at Vandy. They believe they can beat everybody they play. They almost did it last year. They almost had a shot at Florida, almost had a shot at Georgia. So they are a very, very competitive, good team. Play with a lot of fire and energy, just like Coach Franklin has.
They're going to be competitive. We know that. We know we have to play well if we're going to have a chance to beat them in Nashville that Thursday night. I respect the job he's done there. Done a very good job.
We named Lorenzo the coordinator before the Nebraska game. I felt like I was going to hire him anyway. I said, Let's go ahead and hire him before the bowl game, let the players look at him and know he's going to be in charge this year.
Lorenzo and I think very much alike on defensive philosophies, coverages, all that kind of stuff. We threw some different defenses at Nebraska that maybe they weren't quite prepared for. It wasn't anything elaborate, it was just good, fundamental, sound coverage stuff that we hadn't quite been doing a lot of.
Ellis did a super job all the years he was with us and I think will do a super job there at Southern Miss. Lorenzo, we have full confidence he's going to be a good one.
Early in your tenure at South Carolina, you admonished the fans after one game when they applauded your team in a close, tough defeat. Have you coached your fans up since then? A lot has changed at South Carolina in seven years. Yeah, I got a couple good friends that have been there for 30, 40 years and so forth. One of the guys said, We used to come to the ballpark hoping for a good game. If we're playing Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, we were just hoping for a good game, not get blown out. Now we sort of come to the ballpark thinking we're going to beat those guys. We're sort of mad if we don't.
I said, That's the way you're supposed to feel, mad or a little upset if you don't beat them.
They used to come, if it was a close game, guys jogged off the field, gave them a round of applause, close game.
In '06, we lost a close one to Auburn. They sort of clapped as the guys left the field. So, yeah, I said, Please don't do that again. Please don't clap when you lose a game. There's no moral victories in any sport.
So now, yeah, our expectations are high. But we know we could fall flat on our face if we don't stay on our toes and make sure we're ready to play every game.
Historically when South Carolina has had some good years in the past, they fell flat on their face the second year. Check the history year. The year after they went 10‑2, they had a losing season the next year, I believe. Hopefully we're smart enough to know that just about everybody we play can beat us if we're really not ready to play.
Back to the playoff talk. Are you pleased there will be a selection committee? How many people should be on that? Who should be on that? Oh, yeah, I don't really have a big opinion on that. Yeah, I don't know the best way to do it. Probably the best way is very similar to the way they've been getting the first two teams, then just get the third and fourth team. I would imagine it should be something like that.
But I guess the selection committee has a strong voice in that, I guess. I'm not sure how all that will work out. Really that's something we don't need to worry about. All of us in the SEC, if we can win our division, win the game in Atlanta, we will probably be in that final four. That's the only thing we need to try to concern ourselves with, is winning the division, which I think is really neat.
We were talking earlier when Commissioner Kramer started this back in '92, we had six teams on each side, you could play for a division championship. One out of six, those were pretty good odds.
I remember the first year, we went into that at Florida, '92, it was really the weakest team of 12 that we had at Florida. We were in a period where all the best players left after 1991. Recruiting was so‑so. We lost our first two games, but came back. Tennessee managed to lose three games that year somehow. We beat Georgia, then had to beat Vandy to win the division.
Our guys, we took a picture at Vanderbilt stadium, we were a happy bunch because we won the first‑ever division. We were a happy bunch of Gators. That's fun playing for any kind of championship. That division is the first thing.
Then, of course, if you win the game in Atlanta, that's to me maybe just as big as a national championship. We won one national championship.
But the feeling coming out of Atlanta, winning the SEC, very similar, very similar for me. I don't know how the other coaches would say, but that game in Atlanta is really something special.
What is it like to have swept and kind of dominated your rivals two years in a row? You swept Florida, Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee. Yeah, it's pretty neat. That's pretty neat for South Carolina. Yeah, it is. And probably if we're bragging about stuff we've done, that's probably as big as anything, beating some teams that, you know, prior really owned South Carolina.
I think we'd have a weak celebration if we beat one of those four 10 years ago at South Carolina. Beat one of those four, it would be a good year, some people would say.
We've really changed the attitude around there. When I first got there, some fans would say, Coach, if you beat Clemson, I don't care if you lose the rest of them. What sort of attitude is that? That was the mentality, just beat Clemson.
Finally we convinced them that every game is important. Whatever your record is is what you are. Your final record is extremely important. Every game is extremely important.
So hopefully our entire crowd has changed looking at all those games and so forth.
Can you talk about your facilities, particularly the Dodie, how that's helped you in recruiting? Again, a big reason we've been able to recruit so well. We've signed Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina last four years, Shaq Roland, a wide receiver this past year, is with us.
The Dodie is our three‑story academic support building that takes care of all scholarship athlete, all sports, right there on campus. Very, very first‑class. Cafeteria is there and so forth.
We've just about renovated every sport. Every sport there has had some kind of renovation. Our locker room is brand‑new. Our trainer's room is brand‑new last couple years. We have a players lounge. Most schools I know have this now.
Our next facility is the indoor facility. We have a little 50‑yard indoor facility that we use maybe three times a year. Since everybody else has an indoor, we need to get an indoor. That's our next step right there.
Overall the facility improvement is a big reason that we've the success we've had.
It seemed like last year just about everybody in the league had to go down the depth chart at quarterback. Do you think this year with some of the guys coming back, it could be more of a quarterback‑driven league? Yeah, could be. It could be. Arkansas quarterback I know is very good. Tyler Wilson is an excellent passer. He's very good. Alabama quarterback certainly looked good in the final game there.
Yeah, we've not had All‑American quarterbacks too much, have we, lately in our league? Who was the last one? I guess Tebow had to be.
Cam Newton. Yeah, I guess he was an All‑American Heisman winner (laughter). But we haven't had a whole bunch like in the past. Cam Newton, certainly.
Can you talk about Ray Tanner transitioning from the baseball coach to the AD position? Coach Tanner wanted to be an AD. He'd been a head coach 25 years. He started out in administration way back. Back of his mind, he thought if the opportunity came to be an AD, that's something he was really fired up about.
He was right there onboard. He's been there at South Carolina 15, 16 years, something like that. He's seen it all. He's seen the good, the bad. I think he's really ready to do a super job. He's really pumped‑upped about it. So we're all happy he's our AD, definitely.
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