Transcript of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier’s news conference at 2011 SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.:
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue on with the head coach of South Carolina, Coach Steve Spurrier.
COACH SPURRIER: Good to be back here again. We're happy to be here. Got some really, really good players we brought with us. Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, and Travian Robertson came with us today. You will hear from them a little bit later.
But, again, South Carolina football, we made some progress last year. We did some things for the first time ever, beat a No. 1 team, Alabama, on October the 9th, won our first game ever in The Swamp. Won the Eastern Division, the first time ever. We've accomplished a few firsts, but there's plenty more for us to go after.
We feel like we've probably assembled the best group of players we've had in the seven years now that I've been there. But time will tell. Time will tell how this year's team will do.
Again, just briefly, last year, we were a very evenly consistent team, I guess you'd say, offense and defense. Both of them finished seventh in the conference. We were not a great team, by any means. We're sort of middle of the pack in offense and defense. And our special teams were ranked near the bottom in about every category, bottom half, kickoff recover, kickoff return, punt return. We haven't done a whole bunch on special teams. Hopefully we can do that.
But, anyway, we got a lot of improving to do if we're going to have the big year that South Carolina hopes and believes someday we can. Certainly we're shooting for it. But, again, a lot will be determined on how we play, how we coach. Hopefully we'll do a lot better job this coming season.
One thing that gives us hope is we've done a very good job of recruiting our in-state top players. We've been able to sign the Mr. Football in the state, considered the top player in the state the last three years, Jadeveon Clowney, who as we know is not only the top player in our state but considered the top player in the country last year. We're really interested in watching him play this year. We'll be out there early and often, and we think he's going to be a super player and a real good guy for us.
Anyway, we're looking forward to it. Schedule is similar to most years. We've been pretty good at home. 12-2 the last couple years. Our fans are super. We have a nice little home-field advantage there. Hopefully we can continue that as we move on through.
But, again, our fans, our team, had a nice off-season with the workouts. Most guys have been there from what I hear. Our strength coaches say the attitude and the effort has been very good through the summer. Look forward to seeing what happens in 2011.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up now for questions.
Q. You took a school like Florida that didn't have a ton of success before you got there and built something out of it. What is it like to do this again and build that school up? How is it managing high expectations when there weren't any before?
COACH SPURRIER: That's the fun part, achieving things that never happened before. It certainly is for me. Our fans there at South Carolina I think have paid their dues over the years because not much has happened in football or really a lot of sports.
Of course, we're fired up about our baseball team winning back to back national championships. It's not only super and great for our university and for the baseball program, but it sort of sends a message to all the other sports, Hey, it can be done at South Carolina.
We admire Coach Tanner, the team, the way they played. They played well. They played like winners. We're all extremely proud of what the baseball team has accomplished the last couple years.
So that gives us hope that maybe, hey, something big in football, basketball, some of the other sports can start happening.
Again, the reason we have hope is that we've been able to recruit the best players in our state. When you can do that, then you can pick maybe some guys in the border states also to help out.
Recruiting gives us, as well, another chance to be successful. That's where we are. That's the fun part, trying to achieve some things that never happened before.
Q. Coach, being the favorites in the SEC East this year is a new experience for South Carolina. How do you manage those kinds of expectations?
COACH SPURRIER: You know we lost our last two games last year, so we're not sitting around patting each other on the back too much. We got clobbered in the SEC game by Auburn and didn't play when the game was on the line. Against FSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, we fought back, got back in the game, but when it was on the line, didn't do much.
We've got a long way to go.
I think it's nice to have the magazines say we've got a chance. Some of them are picking us to win the East. We know that Georgia, Tennessee and Florida were down last year. That's what gave us hope and probably the big reason we won the East last year. Whether or not they'll be down this year, only time will tell. You don't know.
We, again, have a ways to go. When we tell our players we were seventh in defense and offense, that means we're mediocre. That's what we were. We hadn't had a special teams score since we've been there. I watched the Gators block punt after punt, interceptions after scores. I said, Man, someday I want to win a game with a blocked punt. We used to, but we haven't done it at South Carolina.
We've got a ways to go to really be a good team. Hopefully our guys know that. But we do have some good players. All summer, I said Marcus Lattimore is the best running back in the country, and Alshon Jeffery is the best, in my opinion, is the best receiver in the country. We have a couple players that have a good chance to be All-Americans this year.
Q. How is Stephen Garcia doing?
COACH SPURRIER: Stephen has done well. He has some guidelines he must follow to be reinstated in August. He's done everything we've asked. He's certainly behaved very well, gone to all the workouts from what I understand.
So right now he in all likelihood will be set to return. But he and Connor Shaw will battle it out a little bit. Stephen played well last year, other times not so well. He may be our best quarterback, but we're going to have a little competition in pre-season this year. Connor Shaw has been a year there now. We feel whoever our quarterback is, he needs to go out and earn it in pre-season practice. So we'll have some competition for the quarterback job.
Q. South Carolina fans' expectations have been notoriously low. You've even complained about it in past year. Has that changed with what happened last year? Is it a new dynamic to deal with?
COACH SPURRIER: I don't know if I've complained about it. I sort of got a little upset at our fans when they clapped after we lost. We came close against a No. 2 or No. 3 team in the country and got beat. I don't think you should boo the team, but I don't think you should clap either. But that happened four or five years ago.
I think what had happened is they'd seen so many games where South Carolina pretty much got beat badly, and they were just happy we were in the games.
But, you know, it's one thing to be competitive and another thing to win the game. We've not won a huge majority of games yet. We've been competitive. We got enough players to get in the action, to compete about everybody we play. But taking that next step and winning a whole bunch of games, winning the SEC, that's what we're trying to do. We haven't got there yet.
Q. Earlier today Mike Slive suggested toughening some requirements of high school prospects, raising the GPA, putting a satisfactory progress rate in high school. Your take on that in general? In a typical year, how many guys could that affect?
COACH SPURRIER: I'm not sure how many it would affect. For some reason, we seem to want to try to make it more and more difficult on some of these young men. They come from difficult backgrounds, difficult academic settings and so forth.
But, anyway, whatever they say the requirements are, certainly we'll abide by it. They make the rules. We give our opinions. That's pretty much the way we go. We're free to give our opinions. That doesn't mean they're going to agree with them. But still we have a right to give what we think's best.
I think the requirements are pretty good the way they are right now. So that's my opinion on that.
Q. You mentioned everything you have accomplished so far. This is a program that has one 10-win season in its history. What do you think you can set out to Carolina football that you haven't done already and how much longer do you think you will be coaching?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, again, like I said, we're trying to achieve some things that have not happened. We've only had one 10-win season in the history of the program last year. We had two games to try to get there last year, but we couldn't get there, so we failed on that.
What gives us hope, again, like I said, we got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney. This is the first time according to these recruiting experts that a No. 1 guy picked a school that has never won a national championship. Usually those No. 1 guys go to Alabama, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Florida, somewhere like that. We were able to get a No. 1 guy. He said, I've got confidence that my home state university can win big. That's what he wants to do.
So it was a big boost to get a guy like Jadeveon Clowney because it sends a message that we can win. Hopefully we can. Those are our goals.
How much longer do I plan on coaching? That's a good question. I always say four or five more. Maybe I'll start saying three or four more. I don't know.
Health-wise, I feel about like I did 10 years ago or so. And we've got the best players since I've been there. Our program really I believe is heading in the right direction. If it was going bad, we were getting beat, I'd be gone.
We have an excellent coaching staff there, too. Very easily could be the best coaching staff I've ever had because these assistant coaches, they can go recruit the guys. I mean, I give my little input, but they don't need me hanging around the guys all the time. They can go recruit them themselves. They can sell the program, the opportunity to play, so forth.
So it's a strong group of assistant coaches that I've got. I'm not as stressful as most coaches are. So I guess that gives me a chance for a little bit more longevity than a lot of coaches.
Q. Every year it seems we're asking you about guidelines for Stephen Garcia. Talk about your unlimited patience with him. You've gone beyond what any other coach would do. What is it about Garcia that makes you hang in with him.
COACH SPURRIER: I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity (laughter). And there's some reasons that he's probably done some things.
Basically we do believe he's a good kid, good person. He's already graduated. He's graduated. With this latest incident, we told him he could go play somewhere else if he wanted to, but he wants stay there.
He's really made some lifestyle changes to stay there. Hopefully it will keep up. We just felt like he was worth giving another opportunity to sort of change his life-style, and thus far he's done it.
Q. With the receivers in the league last year, did you feel like Alshon Jeffery was underappreciated? Can you talk about what makes him a special talent?
COACH SPURRIER: I don't think he was underappreciated where we're from. I think he made first team All-Conference, didn't he? I think he did. Second team All-American, something like that. Or first team All-American. He made one of those first teams. So he wasn't underappreciated, no.
He played very well. What we like about Alshon and Marcus is they're two young men, you can brag on them, doesn't affect them at all. They're some of our best workers. Marcus gets the hardest worker in the weight room award every spring. Alshon has improved his speed, his body size. When he got to South Carolina, he was about 245. Just a big old guy out there that could really play. Now he's thinned down to about 230, which he can carry easily. He's a lot faster than he's ever been. You got to admire how these guys work also.
Q. Those of us who have been coming to this for a lot of years, we welcome you back. But last year we saw a Steve Spurrier that was kind of taking stock. Did last year's season change you back to the guy we know and love? If so, what's on future along with your plans beyond this year?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, again, most coaches, if they win a lot, win a lot of championships, they do talk a little bit more. You'll notice that all around. I haven't won enough to be very talkative lately. That's just the way life is, I think.
But, anyway, again, I don't know how to answer that question. Maybe I have changed a little bit. But I think it's all relative to going 7-6 instead of 11 or 12-1.
Q. Do you look at last year as a barometer?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, it was a good year. It wasn't a great year. It was a good year for us. Again, we stretched our dimensions a little bit, but we've not hit where we believe we can go yet.
And so we're still battling to win the game in Atlanta. If you can win the one in Atlanta, you can go on and win the national. It's been proven the last five years.
We just talk about trying to win the east, win the game in Atlanta. We'll see if we can do it.
Q. Coach, how much does your staff use these recruiting services and scouting services, the legitimate ones? Did you use those much when you were head coach at Florida?
COACH SPURRIER: I think we were bottom in the league in pay last year. I think we spent $12,000 on recruiting services. I read where a lot of schools spend 2- or 300-grand on it. We didn't use it that much in the Florida days either.
We operate pretty cheaply around there for some reason. I saw Dan Mullen. Mississippi State has a jet airplane out there. We pulled our little KingAir up next to it. They've got a lot of money at Mississippi State. Everybody's got a lot of money, I guess.
Q. Do you not think they're very necessary?
COACH SPURRIER: What's necessary?
Q. The scouting services.
COACH SPURRIER: No, I don't think they're that much necessary. I think maybe they can help a little bit, but not too much.
Q. Would Stephen get the same treatment if he was a backup tight end? Is it okay to go to the wall for your starting quarterback, to give him that many chances?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, again, he's not done anything to be arrested, thrown in jail, DUIs, things like that. He's just done some stupid things. There's actually some reasons he's done those things that we're trying to figure out to help him out, help him out so he won't do that anymore.
No, if he'd been a tight end, yeah, we'd probably try to save him, uh-huh, try to help him.
Q. When you look at your best players on offense, your group of wide receivers, your runningback, maybe a couple guys on defense, is that group of players comparable to your teams at Florida, your best players at Florida?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, we haven't been yet. We haven't been yet. Can we? We hope so. Talk about defense a little bit, we have Stephon Gilmore at corner, Devin Taylor the other defensive end. We're hoping with Devin coming on one end, Jadeveon coming up the other end or somewhere, we're going to have a good pass-rush. I think we finished dead last in third-down defense last year. We couldn't get the other team off the field on third down as well as we should have. We think we're going to hopefully improve there.
Melvin Ingram, Travian Robertson, we got some strong inside guys. Linebackers and so forth. Safeties. Got some new guys probably going to play here and there Akeem Auguste is back, DeVonte Holloman, so forth.
But we've not dominated on defense, no, not like those Florida teams. They were always first or second in the team in defense most every year we were there. Not every year, but most of 'em.
Q. The Ivy League announced today they're going to cut down on full-contact practices to two a week and only one during two-a-days. Do you see that as feasible at this level?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, I do. That's about what we do, to tell you the truth. To me, it doesn't make any sense to get your own players hurt in practice. Just doesn't make any sense at all.
We've almost started practicing with don't take the guy to the ground. We scrimmage and say, Stay up. As soon as you make good, full contact, he's wrapped up, blow a quick whistle so they won't be falling in the legs.
You have to be smart enough to know when the real game goes on, now it's real football. But it's not real football when you're out there practicing against your teammates. That's really the way I've tried to do it pretty much ever since I've been a coach.
But we've gone more to staying up, staying up, staying up. You just got to be smart enough to know, when the real game is here, now we're flying in the legs. Everybody's going 100 miles an hour. But you're trying to practice to play the game.
I heard one time when the Army guys practice against each other, they don't use live bullets. Why do football teams use live hits against each other? Doesn't make sense. So we try to protect each other in all practices.
You know, we used to practice two-a-days, gosh, in the '90s. They told us you could only go one-a-days. Hasn't made any difference. Probably helped us be better teams practicing one-a-days and have the walk-throughs in the morning, go out in shorts and a T-shirt.
I think the rules are really smarter for football, yeah. The game maybe is even better than it used to be because of these new rules.
Q. When people talk about how the 2010 team was able to get over the hump and make it to Atlanta, the standard response was that you had a Marcus Lattimore. Does it really come all down to that or are there other factors in the success of the 2010 team that people aren't paying attention to?
COACH SPURRIER: Yeah, the other factors were usually the three top teams - Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida - were not having the years they normally have.
But, yeah, Marcus gives us hope. I think when we beat Florida down there, I said when we signed Marcus Lattimore, that's what gave us a chance to beat Florida, because he carried the ball 40 times down there, 215 yards or something like that. Certainly he was the key player in the entire game.
But, yeah, you get some top players. He and Alshon, Devin Taylor, Jadeveon Clowney, they make a difference. When you got some guys that can really play, that gives you a chance. Everybody doesn't have to be a star player. You don't need 11 stars out there on the field, but you need two or three on offense and defense to give you that chance to have the big year.
Q. I read recently where you had to make some cuts on your team due to lack of scholarship limitations. How do you go about making those decisions? What is the evaluation process? Is it by position or more about the individual player?
COACH SPURRIER: First of all, we have not had to make any cuts. We oversigned this year. As it turned out, the two guys we oversigned, they didn't qualify. So we didn't oversign as it turned out. We didn't have to ask anybody to come in January. We never had to ask anybody come in January, even though we have oversigned by two or three.
What happened is we have signed better players the last two or three years. Two years ago or three years ago, maybe it was two years ago, at the end of August, we were sitting there with seven scholarships for walk-ons. I've always used all 85 of 'em. When you put a walk-on on scholarship, you tell him, This is good for a year. You get free room and board. If it's an out-of-state kid, worth about 25 grand, in-state, 15, 16, something like that. That doesn't mean you got it forever. If we fill up, and we've signed players, they're all here, you're not playing very much or whatever, you may not be renewed. But you're getting one right now.
We had a young man that got about a year and a half or two years, I guess, of scholarship. He told everybody he got cut, wasn't fair. He was a little guy. A good little player. But he's just not going to play next year. We gave him a year and a half. He was actually on the track team and they cut him. I said, Why don't you go back to the track team and get on scholarship? He shook his head like, I don't think they're going to have me back.
Gave him a year and a half, which I thought was pretty nice of us. Then it came to the point where he just sort of got phased out.
Scholarships are one-year renewables. This was a young man that wasn't recruited by us. But he was there and contributed. He contributed some to us.
No, we didn't have to cut anybody. But we do have one-year renewable scholarships. Sometimes we don't renew 'em all, so...
Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how sure are you that Stephen Garcia is going to keep his nose clean this next time? Also, with such a big drop-off from a guy that started 28 consecutive games, what it would mean to your team, how much do you lose sleep at night thinking about that?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, first of all, he may get beaten out by Connor Shaw. I said it earlier, we're going to have competition. I guess everyone assumes Stephen is going to be the quarterback if he's there. But we'll see. We'll see how Connor performs in pre-season and how Stephen performs and go from there.
But, no, I haven't lost any sleep over it, if that's what you mean.
Q. Can you talk about any special message you give your team about, This is a different year. You're the defending East champs. There's a lot of high expectations. Do you treat it any differently when you're talking to your players?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, I haven't talked to them much. We finished spring ball, and in the summer they work out with the strength coaches.
But, no, there's a little air of optimism, which you have to have. That's okay. We want our guys to believe we do have a chance to win the east, to win the SEC. Hopefully we'll be smart enough to know that it's not going to be easy, and we've got to play extremely well, prepare well to give ourselves a chance to do it.
I think so far the guys are pretty level-headed. But, again, the fans, because we've not had a lot of success there, they're going to tell the guys how great they are. Hopefully we'll be smart enough to handle it and go from there.
But historically we've not, so it will be a challenge to see if we can handle some pre-season predictions, 'cause we've never had much of those before in the past.
Q. Part of Commissioner Slive's suggestion was making scholarships a multi-year deal. Was that a good idea?
COACH SPURRIER: No, that's a terrible idea, Commissioner. Do you sportswriters have a two-year contract, three- or four-year? Have you ever had a two-year deal?
COACH SPURRIER: If you go bad, don't show up to work, your butt will be out on the street.
Everybody has to earn your way in life. You earn your way in life. Go from there. That's the way I believe.
Luckily coaches have four- and five-year contracts. They get paid off if they get canned, I guess (laughter).
No, I don't think that's a good idea. The Commissioner and I agree on a lot of things, but not that one there.
Q. Leaving out the names of your quarterbacks, in the time you've been at South Carolina, you have not had a guy at that position who is the undisputed team leader, the guy that everybody rallies around, sets a great example. How much of a difference would that be?
COACH SPURRIER: That would be helpful. Yeah, that would be helpful if our quarterback play was real solid and the quarterback was a player everybody could look up to and could rally around. That would be helpful. We're still trying to make that work out.
You're right, we thought we had some guys, but for whatever reason didn't work out. Every school has done that. Everybody says, How come you haven't signed a great one there since you been there?
I say, I don't know, we just haven't quite had a great one.
But, anyway, we got a couple guys that can play. Stephen can play, and Connor Shaw can play. So we're in pretty good shape at quarterback.
Q. I was curious about what led to your arrest after that one spring practice? How did you set that up with the sheriff?
COACH SPURRIER: Well, we found out that the police work -- well, Jadeveon was downtown in one of the local pubs. He doesn't drink, but he was in there. They had an armed robbery in the area. It was a guy with dreadlocks, a tall guy. So they saw Jadeveon in there, and they were looking for this dude. What they do, they handcuff you and then ask you a bunch of questions and then let you go.
Of course, while he was getting handcuffed, all the kids in the bar there were taking pictures of him. That's what hit the Internet. Here is Jadeveon Clowney arrested in a bar down in Columbia. He wasn't arrested, he was just being questioned because he looked a little bit like the guy they were looking for.
Our police chief came and talked to the team and explained how that could happen. We didn't know how it could happen, so we learned a lot from it.
I said, Chief, can you handcuff me today right after practice?
He said, Sure, what time?
I talk to the media boys about 6:00, so get out there about five till 6:00, so he's standing there, I'm talking to the media boys. They don't know what is really going on.
He said, Coach, I need to talk to you about something.
He took me over to the side and handcuffed me. None of the boys knew what was going on. But anyway, he let me go after about a minute or two. I guess I came back and said that there was a robbery down at the convenience store, and somebody said the robber looked like that head ball coach down at South Carolina, so he had to come talk to me (laughter).
Anyway, we learned a lot about that. You can get handcuffed, no big deal, don't worry about it (laughter). Sometimes mistaken identity allows the police to do their work. We had another player, something happened to him. He looked like somebody they were looking for. We don't get mad about it anymore. No big deal.
Q. I was in Florida when you had your winter meetings. Can you put into context your advocating paying the players in some fashion and the fact that you said that those that didn't advocate that, it would be made public?
COACH SPURRIER: Okay, just briefly, and I know I'm not going to change the NCAA or how we do anything, but I can give my opinion. My opinion is that college football and basketball players should share a little bit more in the enormous amount of money that comes to our universities. These are the two income-producing sports.
The basketball and the football coaches, we make millions and millions. The other sports, the softball, the volleyball, they don't make a lot of money. But the two big sports pay for all the other sports. If there's a way to give our guys a little bit more spending money, that's what I was certainly for.
I just threw a proposal out there. Seven of our guys signed it. The other five I guess didn't feel comfortable signing it. That was that.
I've given you my opinion, so no need to go back into it. Just the enormous amount of money that comes in from college football. Our players need to share in it a little bit, not a lot. I'm not trying to pay 'em to play. If we paid them for their performance, we'd have guys making a million dollars a year.
We got some guys a lot better than some of those NFL guys that are making two and three million a year as far as that goes. I'm just talking about expense money, allow those guys to live a little bit more like normal students on campus.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH SPURRIER: Thank you.