COLUMBIA - Steve Spurrier arrived at Colonial Life Arena wearing a shirt and jacket bearing the logo of the Independence Bowl, and carrying a simple message - don't panic.
"I think every now and then some of our recruits mess around with the media. I hope that's all they're doing is messing around - saying one thing and hopefully meaning another," South Carolina's football coach said at halftime of USC's basketball game against Florida on Wednesday night. "But we'll see. You recruit until Feb. 4, and on Feb. 4 we'll find out what we've got. But I feel like we're going to have an excellent recruiting class, and plan on that happening."
Spurrier's comments were a veiled reference to Gamecocks recruit Arden Key, a defensive end from Hapeville, Ga., who Tuesday over Twitter publicly decommitted from South Carolina for the second time - but later backtracked and wrote that the Gamecocks still topped his list. Key hasn't been the only decommitment USC has weathered in the wake of a 7-6 season capped by the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl victory over Miami.
USC has already welcomed nine mid-year signees including Marquavius Lewis of Greenwood, the nation's top junior college prospect at defensive end, and sought-after defensive tackle Dexter Wideman from Camden Military. Despite the occasional drama surrounding many of his other recruits, Spurrier said he was not concerned about a drop-off in this incoming class.
"Not worried at all. We've got nine guys here already. Obviously Quay Lewis and Dexter Wideman are the two big-name guys. Sherrod Pittman at linebacker, they're already here on campus. ... We're in good shape. I think our defense will look a lot different next year, and hopefully our offense will continue on," he said.
"It's been a good recruiting season. Again, on Feb. 4, we'll find out what we've got. We've got a bunch of fired-up coaches. We're looking forward to doing some different things. I was telling our coaches, at this time last year we were No. 4 in the nation, and maybe some of us got a little cocky that it's just going to keep happening, that we're just going to keep winning 11 games every year. Didn't happen. Obviously our team wasn't as strong, obviously our defense wasn't as strong as it's been in the past, and we didn't. All we can do it try to learn from it and try to do some things differently around here, and we'll do that."
As for the ever-present question about potential changes to the coaching staff, Spurrier continued to leave the door open.
"When there's time for an announcement of that, we'll do it," he said. "I certainly think maybe an addition will help us, but we'll wait and see how that works out."
USC confirmed on Thursday that reserve defensive tackle Deon Green would transfer. He follows Goose Creek native Gerald Turner, who transferred to Charleston Southern after playing this past season primarily on special teams. Spurrier said he also expects some of his lesser-used fifth-year players to leave for smaller schools, given that players who have already graduated and have a final year of eligibility still remaining are allowed under NCAA rules to transfer without penalty.
"We'll have an announcement on those guys in a couple of weeks, and we recommend they do that," he said. "We have some guys going into their fifth year that we don't think are going to play much here, so go somewhere where you can play. That's a good rule they have now, and hopefully some of our players will take advantage of that."