Steve Spurrier stood on the USC practice field on a pleasant Saturday evening and sounded ready to put four weeks' worth of work into play Thursday night against Southern Miss in the season opener.
“It wasn’t too hot. Nice little breeze here. Maybe it’ll be like this in about five days,” Spurrier said. “So anyway (I’m) looking forward to the ballgame and looking forward to practicing a little harder the next couple of days.”
His players are ready to stop hitting each other and hit someone wearing a uniform of a different color. As the opening kickoff approaches, a sense of urgency is beginning to fill the air.
“There’s always just a little bit more awareness that the game is getting closer. As you know, four weeks is a long time before you play a game. We used to have three weeks to practice, now it’s four,” he said. “You have to pace yourself. I’ve seen teams get ready too early and forget to get ready the week of the game.”
Spurrier, who’s entering his sixth season with a 35-28 record in Columbia, would like nothing more than to finally put USC’s last game behind him. The Gamecocks dropped a 20-7 decision to UConn in the Papajohns.com goal on Jan. 2.
He’s confident the fall camp has them prepared to erase the memory of that game.
“We haven’t overdone it. Our team will be a ready to play. Southern Miss is a good team, and they believe they’re going to come in here and beat us,” he said. “What we have to do is prove we’re a tough, disciplined team. Last time we attempted football at South Carolina, we were not. We were embarrassing. So we’re going to try not to be embarrassing.”
Quarterbacks Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw continue to battle for playing time.
“They’re about the same. Both of them are going to play. The one that’s playing the best will play most of it,” said Spurrier, who declined to name the starter just yet.
“I’m not 100 percent sure,” he added. “Somebody may twist an ankle between now and then. So I don’t know who’s going to start.”
Spurrier remains hopeful that he will receive word from the NCAA on its investigation soon.
“(We) haven’t heard anything. We should hear something this week. They usually tell you something before the first game,” he said.
As for players whose stay at the Whitney Hotel was questioned by investigators, Spurrier doesn’t plan to sit them if he receives no word.
“If we don’t hear any news, we’ll play everybody we’ve got. Well, almost everybody we’ve got,” he said.
That reference was to tight end Weslye Saunders, whose issues are more complicated. Not only is he being investigated for possibly receiving illegal benefits from agents, he also remains suspended by Spurrier for team violations.
“I’m not going to talk about his situation. We’re still on hold with him. We’ll wait to see what happens,” Spurrier said.
Let’s hear it for tall receivers. The three starting receivers listed on the depth chart are 6-4 Alshon Jeffery, 6-5 Tori Gurley and 6-4 D.L. Moore.
“Everyone wants to be a starter. That’s the best thing right now,” said Moore, who caught seven passes and one touchdown in his redshirt freshman season a year ago.
The prospect of linebacker Shaq Wilson being able to play in the opener continues to diminish. Wilson, who led the team in tackles last season, has been sidelined nearly the entire camp with a hamstring injury.
“He might could play a few plays, I don’t know,” Spurrier said. “If he’s not 100 percent, we won’t play him.”
Gurley was wearing a yellow jersey due to a slight hamstring problem, but he was dressed for practice.
Guard Terrence Campbell is still not dressing out, but he was no longer wearing a cast for his high ankle sprain.
Tight end/fullback Patrick DiMarco remains in yellow for his fractured forearm, but he continues to practice. Receiver Dion LeCorn continues not to dress out due to his shoulder sprain.
Quote of the day
“They’re active. They’ve got just as good of athletes as UConn, and UConn clobbered us. They’re a good, tough bunch. They play like a lot of people play now. They’re all over the place -- a little man, a little zone blitz and zones. They'll probably have some new blitzes.” – Spurrier on the Southern Miss defense
The Gamecocks will practice Sunday at 6 p.m.