Thu Jul 21 11:02am EDT
It's been a long time since Steve Spurrier dusted off his cocky, off-the-cuff, quotable game, but during SEC media days on Tuesday, he seemed back to his old self.
Winning nine games and making the SEC title game will do that, I guess.
Spurrier used to be one of the most quotable coaches in the SEC when he was at Florida, but a love-hate relationship with the Washington Redskins and some struggles during his first five seasons with South Carolina seemed to steal that panache and make Spurrier a dull boy.
"Most coaches, if they win a lot, win a lot of championships, they do talk a little bit more," Spurrier said. "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.
"Maybe I have changed a little bit. But I think it's all relative to going 7-6 instead of 11 or 12-1."
And don't expect Spurrier's demeanor to change any time soon, especially with the optimism surrounding his program. Steven Garcia is sober, Marcus Latimore is fast and Jadeveon Clowney is eligible. There's not much more Spurrier could ask for. Still he acknowledged that his team did take advantage of a weaker year in the SEC East.
"We know that Georgia, Tennessee and Florida were down last year," Spurrier said. "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."
And even Spurrier, who won six SEC titles and a national championship with Florida, knows the Gamecocks have a long way to go to be a consistent threat in the SEC. But last season was definitely a step in the right direction.
"Well, it was a good year. It wasn't a great year. It was a good year for us," he said. "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."
To be able to move forward in the SEC, Garcia is going to have to stay on the straight and narrow. Spurrier suspended his quarterback countless times for alcohol-related incidents and Garcia has somehow continued to find a spot on the team. While Spurrier was non-committal about whether Garcia would be his starter in the fall (the same cagey game Spurrier played a year ago), it's clear that he feels Garcia is trying to get his life in order.
"I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity," Spurrier said. "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. 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."
When Spurrier was asked whether Garcia was getting preferential treatment because he was a starting quarterback and not the backup tight end, Spurrier justified Garcia's multiple chances.
"He's not done anything to be arrested, thrown in jail, DUIs, things like that," Spurrier said. "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."
At least the pressure will be off Garcia on the field with Latimore coming off a 1,197-yard season with 17 touchdowns and receiver Alshon Jeffrey catching 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine scores.
Defensively, the Gamecocks were one of the best rushing defenses in the country and figure to be even better with the addition of Clowney, who Spurrier said will play early and often.
"There's a little air of optimism, which you have to have. That's OK," Spurrier said. "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.
"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."