Gamecocks pumped up by comment
COLUMBIA -- Those close to the situation are being very quiet this week about Lane Kiffin's reported "pumping gas" comments to Alshon Jeffery back at the time of his commitment to South Carolina.
But Gamecocks senior receiver Moe Brown didn't mind bringing to light the comments from the first-year coach at Tennessee.
"He made that comment about pumping gas if you go to South Carolina, and I didn't find no humor in that at all," said Brown, a captain and probably the team's most vocal leader. "Actually, I took it personally."
The 21st-ranked Gamecocks (6-2, 3-2 SEC) travel Saturday to play Kiffin's Volunteers (3-4, 1-3).
As first reported during the summer by ESPN.com and confirmed this week to The Post and Courier, Kiffin told Jeffery, just after he'd decided on the Gamecocks, that he'd "wind up pumping gas" like other former South Carolina players.
Jeffery has declined to answer direct questions about the comments. Kiffin has claimed he never said that.
Brown, an Anderson native, sure seems to think it happened.
"I'm a South Carolina native as well as a student here at the University of South Carolina," Brown said. "I'm a 3.2 (GPA) finance and marketing major. I feel like I'm very intelligent and the last thing I'm going to be
doing is pumping some gas after I get through with the university here."
Brown isn't the only Gamecock who heard about the comments.
Defensive end Clifton Geathers, from Georgetown, didn't say much about the matter. But the 6-7 Geathers made his words stick.
"He made a statement and I think we have to prove him wrong in what he said," he said, "make him regret what he said."
When Kiffin's name was mentioned on Sunday's teleconference, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier immediately went into a shell. He became almost defensive in working to not talk about Kiffin, the 34-year-old who took over for longtime coach Phillip Fulmer.
Twice he declined to talk about Kiffin, saying he is concerning himself with his own team.
He said he isn't "concerned with what other teams do."
But, two weeks ago, he was effusive in praising Alabama's Nick Saban, saying he's "one of the top four or five coaches in the country."
Asked one more time Tuesday about Kiffin, Spurrier again stepped to the side with his words.
"Oh, that's for all you media people to comment on that," he said during his news conference. "I'm trying to worry about my own team here."
When Kiffin was initially hired, before he'd even arrived his Knoxville, word circulated that he'd started recruiting. Spurrier inquired, aloud, if he'd first taken his NCAA recruiting test.
Kiffin, taking that as a dig, later told reporters his score -- as if he were showing Spurrier his report card.
Spurrier confronted Kiffin about that during the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla.
"I didn't accuse you of cheating," Spurrier said in Kiffin's direction, as reported by ESPN.com.
Spurrier then clarified what he meant.
That week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive told conference coaches they should talk only about their own team and not other teams.
Since then, whenever Kiffin has come up, Spurrier says he'd rather talk about the Gamecocks.
Meanwhile, Tuesday in Knoxville, Kiffin said plenty about Spurrier. It was all praise.
"I've always had unbelievable respect for what he's done," said Kiffin, who is in his first college head coaching gig after a short run with the Oakland Raiders. "As soon as people want to start counting him out, he's back in the top 25. He's had a Hall of Fame career and is still doing it."
Comparisons have been drawn between Spurrier, when he started at Florida in the early 1990s, and Kiffin today.
There's some emulation at play, Kiffin said.
"When you watched his teams play, the intensity and the swagger and the way that they walked, I think they represented him," Kiffin said. "Because he was so confident in the way he came across and how much his players believed in him that he could move the ball and that he could win games. I think it was obvious."
Kiffin called Spurrier's vintage gems -- such as "can't spell Citrus without UT" -- "hilarious."
"I think it's funny," Kiffin said, then nodding toward Slive's spring edict. "I guess we're not supposed to do those anymore. I almost made it this whole (news) conference without saying anything.
"I think the way that he acts is great football, and it's great for the league. But that's just my little opinion."
Rarely did Spurrier's words come back to bite him at Florida. It'll be curious to see how, um, pumped the Gamecocks are this weekend.
"It's given us some locker room talk," Brown said of Kiffin's comments. "I'm pretty sure he didn't expect to come out, but it did. I'm taking it very personally, to the point that I want to show him how we do pump gas at the University of South Carolina.
"When it comes down to it, we've still got to play football. We've still got to go on the field and make plays and show we can do more than pump gas at South Carolina."