COLUMBIA -- If you suspected Clifton Geathers was leaving South Carolina early because of his family's influence, you were correct.
Steve Spurrier said Thursday that the junior defensive end watched his brother, Robert, get drafted by Cincinnati in the fourth round. Things have worked out for Geathers, a starting linebacker for the Bengals.
"He got drafted and he's made a lot of money," Spurrier said of the 2004 pick out of Georgia. "When he looks at that, he thinks he can do it."
Geathers' father and uncle also played in the NFL. He's working with that advice, though, and not the counsel of the league's draft advisory board, which said he'd be a late-round pick.
Spurrier urges players that aren't first- or second-round projections to return to school.
"Oh, he knows all that," said Spurrier, who last spoke with Geathers two days ago. "I still think he should've stayed. But if he's gone, he's gone."
Geathers has left the team and school. Spurrier said Geathers has turned off his cell phone.
Spurrier didn't jab at Lane Kiffin, as you might suspect. He did seem rather unsurprised, though, by Kiffin's leap to Southern Cal.
"He's a California guy. He really is," Spurrier said. "He's a Southern Cal guy. He was there for six years as an assistant. I'm not saying if it was right or wrong, but if that's where he's most comfortable and his family's most comfortable, you sort of understand."
Kiffin gets the last laugh, in a way, since he's 1-0 against the Gamecocks. As of Thursday evening, the Vols were still on the hunt for a coach.
"Tennessee will get a good coach," Spurrier said. "That's a good school and a good program."
Thursday was Spurrier's first chance to talk about the Gamecocks' January enrollees. That includes quarterback prospect Connor Shaw, a player coaches have been privately excited about for months.
Spurrier didn't want to lump too much pressure on the Flowery Branch, Ga., product. Shaw's father was his high school coach. His brother, Jaybo, is a quarterback at Georgia Tech.
"He's a kid who loves football, I can tell you that," Spurrier said. "Some people call them football junkies. He loves football and loves learning everything about it. He enjoys working out, throwing the ball every day.
"He really loves football. You'd hope you'd have about 70 like that."
South Carolina is the only SEC East team (other than Vanderbilt) that returns its head coach and both coordinators.
Still, Spurrier fell fall short of assigning any sort of favorite status to the Gamecocks, who just fell flat in the bowl to end a 7-6 season.
"When we start beating Georgia and Southern Miss in our first two games, we may have come somewhere," he said. "But we don't need to talk about anything other than trying to beat Southern Miss in the first game of the season. We've got a long way to go."
The team had its first meeting of the year Thursday afternoon. The first winter workouts were held earlier in the day. ... Spurrier said the offensive play-calling will be ironed out in the next few months. He said it might not be officially announced, but rather just sort of implemented. ... Spurrier also said the Gamecocks, should they reach one, would do things different in terms of bowl preparations. They've been outscored 51-17, combined, in the past two bowls. Offense has been a particular concern.
-- Travis Haney