I got to spend a few minutes with Steve Spurrier last week, and always looking for an angle for a post, I asked him if he had a list of favorite teams, thinking he would single out the 1989 ACC Championship at Duke, the 1996 National Championship at Florida, or the 2010 SEC East Division title.
But the Head Ball Coach wouldn't go, there saying, “I couldn't pick any favorites, they have all been special to me, for one reason or another.”
He did confess, however, that this season's team is among his favorites.
“You know, Glenn, with four scholarship seniors and all freshmen linebackers, a lot of coaches would have said this is a 'rebuilding' year, but nah, I certainly didn't want to say that to the players and lower their expectations.
“We had a little running game with Mike Davis, Connor (Shaw) threw the ball pretty well, receivers got better. The defense got better and better as the season went on. We had a super true freshman kicker (Elliott Fry), and we were fortunate enough to win some close ones.
“To win 10 games, with a shot a winning 11 three years in a row, I'm proud of our players, I'm proud of our coaches, and I'm proud of our fans, who have played such a big part in our home (18-game), winning streak. The guys kept playing, working hard in practice, and good things happened to them.”
As I was leaving his office and thinking about what he had said, it struck me that, yes indeed, this was a remarkable season, and the reasons aren't that complicated. It was a combination of a solid mix of talented, some of the them first-year players, and another outstanding coaching job by Coach Spurrier and his staff. It's as simple as that.
Be honest, how many among you thought the Gamecocks would win 10 games after the thumping they got at Georgia? Like Coach Spurrier said, the players kept believing and working, the coaches worked harder, and a culture of leadership with a “refuse to lose” attitude bonded the team together, and made it happen.
There has never before been an association of the words “South Carolina” and “elite program,” but I would contend that time has come.
Eight winning seasons in nine years, eight bowl games in nine years, back-to-back 11-win seasons, with a good shot at a third, all say elite to me. Some might argue that it takes decades of winning to be deemed an elite program, but becoming a consistent winner is how it begins, and the Gamecocks have taken another step in that direction. What could have been a rebuilding season turned into a reloading year, and the future looks bright.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!