COLUMBIA — Unlike the Komodo dragons starring in the newest display at Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo, Steve Spurrier says he limits his swagger to the offseason.
But the Head Ball Coach isn’t denying the sprinkle of summer swagger, a personality trait linked to Spurrier when he thinks he has a good team.
Make no mistake, the No. 9 Gamecocks are very good, and Spurrier expects to start his eighth season at South Carolina in impressive style Thursday night at Vanderbilt.
In Connor Shaw, the Gamecocks have stability at quarterback, something missing at the beginning of last season.
In Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina has a healthy Heisman Trophy candidate at running back, a non-option down the stretch in 2011.
Yet the Gamecocks went 11-2.
Which Spurrier, in his natural winning habitat, clearly enjoys.
“Any coach that wins a lot — we won a lot last year — they talk a little more freely than when they lose a lot,” Spurrier explained Monday at his weekly news conference.
“That’s just human nature. Coaches that go 7-6 (or) 6-7, they usually don’t have too much to say. Coaches that win a little bit are little bit more freely talking and that’s probably the only thing that I’ve done a little differently. Maybe. Not so much on purpose.
“Generally, in the offseason. Light comments. Halfway funny … But they’re true. During the regular season, I try not to be very funny about anything.”
Spurrier vs. Saban
Gamecock Nation is still new to this concept of zinging foes and their fans. Spurrier swagger is well-known throughout the SEC. During his incredible run as Florida’s head coach, he poked fun at Florida State, Georgia and Tennessee.
Spurrier was at it again this offseason. He said he wished the Gamecocks played Georgia early in the season again this year because “you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
Later, he mentioned Georgia’s easy SEC schedule.
Spurrier harpooned Nick Saban, telling espn.com that winning national championships at Alabama wasn’t such a big deal “because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”
Saban shot back at SEC Media Days last month, saying he wanted to be “just like Steve Spurrier,” and last week, saying LSU, Michigan State, Toledo and Alabama were not winning before he signed on as head coach.
“I really like Nick,” Spurrier said Monday. “I kind of like all the coaches. But anyway …”
Yeah, you know.
The regular season is here.
Enough needling. Time to try and win enough games to face Saban and Alabama in the SEC championship game.
Spurrier knows Vanderbilt is ready and went out of his way Monday to remind everyone that some people in Nashville expect big things from the Commodores in their second season under head coach James Franklin.
Spurrier pointed out that the Goodyear blimp is booked for a rare appearance over Vanderbilt Stadium.
Never mind that the Commodores generally are picked for sixth place in the seven-member SEC East and mostly because Kentucky really stinks.
Or that South Carolina- Vandy might not draw as many fans as the other Thursday night football show in Nashville, Titans vs. Saints in a meaningless NFL exhibition game.
Spurrier also noted that ESPN plans to make use of those snazzy over-the-field cameras that were the only good thing to come out of the XFL.
It should look good on TV, from a production standpoint.
But good teams coming off 11-win seasons don’t struggle against Vanderbilt. They set a tone, for the season and for another offseason of halfway funny swagger.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sapakoff.