COLUMBIA -- For the past month, South Carolina's coaches have had direct control over the development of the football program. But spring practice has concluded. Now the players are essentially on their own until August.
What will they do with that time?
"I've always believed summer's more important than spring," USC coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday after the final spring workout. "You get 15 practices out here. During these 15, we've tried to teach our players 'Here's what you need to do all summer' -- and I mean all summer long.
"Some guys do it, and some go drink beer all summer. Hopefully our guys are going to want to try to get fundamentally sound and learn their assignments and be ready to go in August when we start preseason practice."
To be clear, Spurrier was not referring to Connor Shaw as the beer-swilling type. But he has said this summer is an important one for the sophomore quarterback, who is currently the No. 1 by default.
"Connor's only had one summer here," he said. "We'll see if he can
improve. ... Connor could be a very good player, no question."
With starter Stephen Garcia still on indefinite suspension, Spurrier has said it's crucial for Shaw to throw as much as he possibly can between now and August. Spurrier is a firm believer that repetition is required for mastery.
That process has been going strong the past month.
"I have to ask Connor, 'Your arm's not sore, is it?' " Spurrier said. "We rapid-fire around here. That's what they have to do all summer if they're ever going to throw it real well around here. I don't think we've had great summer workouts for our quarterbacks and receivers, for some reason."
Spurrier once lamented that Garcia was wearing sandals while going through those voluntary drills in 2009.
"(The quarterbacks) come out in August, and they're about where we left them in spring ball," Spurrier said. "It's an individual thing. Coaches can only give them a plan and they've got to do it. We can't coach them during the summer.
"We'll see if the quarterbacks come back much more prepared to throw it up and down the field. I think we're going to have an excellent group of receivers. I really do."
Spurrier said Andrew Clifford would start the summer second on the QB depth chart, even though Dylan Thompson had a relatively solid spring. Spurrier said both players have improved, and Clifford's progress has been noticeable.
Regardless of who the quarterback ultimately is, there will be a good deal of expectations for the Gamecocks entering the fall. With Garcia or Shaw taking snaps, USC should be a favorite to again win the SEC East.
Some pundits think, with Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery and the addition of Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks have top-10 potential.
Spurrier is not on his own team's bandwagon just yet.
"We've got a long way to go. Our team is not nearly as good as maybe some people think it's going to be," Spurrier said. "Our offensive line's really got to come around. The quarterback's got to come around. The linebackers haven't played much at all. Our kicking game, I don't know who's going to be our kicker.
"We're an unknown team. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to have a chance to be a good team this upcoming season."
A raise and extension for Spurrier will be voted on, and likely approved, this morning by the university's board of directors. Spurrier currently makes $1.75 million a season in a contract that will run through 2013.
Spurrier is 44-33 in six seasons at USC, having led the Gamecocks in 2010 to the school's first SEC division title and appearance in the league's title game.
"There was never any big deal about it, to tell you the truth," Spurrier said. "(We are) just trying to get in line with all the other SEC schools on football salaries."
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