USC’s new play-caller says he worked hard for this promotion, and he lets his resume do the talking
While photographers snapped pictures of South Carolina players at one end of Williams-Brice Stadium on Sunday, Steve Spurrier Jr. stood at the other end punting balls to two of his three young sons.
About an hour later, Spurrier Jr. was summoned for the portion of the Gamecocks’ media day he enjoyed less: dealing with the media.
Despite sharing a name and working on a lot of the same staffs with his famous father, Spurrier Jr. has been content to stay in the background throughout his career.
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But like it or not, USC’s 36-year-old receivers coach has been thrust into the spotlight after Steve Spurrier Sr. in the spring named his son the principal offensive play-caller — the first time in his career the elder Spurrier has delegated the play calling.
“There’s nothing positive the media wants to do with this, in my mind. In my mind, the media is looking for a reason for a negative,” Spurrier Jr. said Sunday. “And if I can avoid that, I’d like to. It’s going to be hard for me to (do that), I know. People are going to criticize me, people are going to criticize my father for whatever reason.”
Spurrier Jr. is concerned the public perception will be that he benefited from nepotism, that his father “handed” him the job to further his career.
But the former Duke receiver has been working the past 14 years for this chance, beginning in 1994 when he broke into coaching as a graduate assistant on his father’s Florida staff. Since then, the younger Spurrier has won two national championship rings — with the Gators in ’96 and at Oklahoma in 2000 — while helping develop several all-conference and NFL receivers.
“I feel like I’m prepared to take on the task,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this year. I think we’ve got a good team. I think Tommy Beecher is a good player. We’ve got some good receivers, some good running backs. The offensive line’s going to be better.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity with this group of guys.”
Spurrier Sr. retained the offensive coordinator’s title and plans to make suggestions about plays or formations. But he believes his son is ready.
“I think Steve’s a good coach. It’s hard for me to say it. You guys can check his background, check how his wide receivers play, how he recruits. That’s sort of how you judge assistant coaches,” Spurrier Sr. said at SEC media days last month.
“He’s been watching me call plays. But he’s been calling them also.”
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Unlike their predecessors at USC (see Holtz, Lou and Skip), Spurrier Jr. said he and his father are on the same page in terms of philosophy.
So while the Gamecocks might add a couple of running plays for the quarterback, don’t expect them to come out in the spread against N.C. State.
“There are some things that we’ll look at a little bit different. But for the most part I’ve agreed with every concept he’s put in and I’ve certainly been raised under his way of thinking on offense,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Hopefully, I’ve absorbed some information.”
Kenny McKinley, who joined Sidney Rice as the second USC receiver to earn All-SEC honors under Spurrier Jr., has noticed few differences with Spurrier Jr. in his new role.
“Really to me, he calls plays just like his dad. They call plays just alike,” McKinley said. “So I guess it’s just in their blood. Just draw up stuff and have good plays on hand.”
But Spurrier Jr., who plans to call plays from the field after spending the previous three seasons in the press box, has offensive influences beyond the family tree. At Oklahoma, he worked alongside three assistants who are now head coaches: Texas Tech’s Mike Leach, Kansas’ Mark Mangino and San Diego State’s Chuck Long.
This is not the first time Spurrier Jr. has called plays.
After Leach left Oklahoma after the 1999 regular season for Texas Tech, Spurrier Jr. said Sooners coach Bob Stoops had him and Mangino share play-calling duties in the Independence Bowl against Mississippi.
Oklahoma outgained the Rebels 481-361 in total yardage, but lost 27-25 on a field goal as time expired.
“We go down and score with (two minutes) left to take the lead at the end of the game,” Spurrier Jr. said. “And we kick off to Deuce McAllister, who returns it out to about the 50. They go 20 yards, kick a field goal with eight seconds left to beat us.”
“Tough game,” he added. “But our offense was good.”
Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.