Steve Spurrier delivered a hybrid history lesson and pep talk Friday during his annual appearance in front of the Columbia Touchdown Club.
South Carolina opens the season on Aug. 29 against North Carolina. Nine years ago at the same event, Spurrier was getting ready to open his first season as the Gamecocks coach against Central Florida on a Thursday night.
“It seems like just the other night we were in the same scenario,” he told a crowd of several hundred after lunch at Seawell’s restaurant.
After averaging seven wins in his first six seasons in Columbia, Spurrier addressed the club’s first meeting of the season coming off 31 wins the past three years.
“Somebody said, ‘How’d you do it?’ ” Spurrier said. “We got better players, and we got better assistant coaches, too. I looked around at our coaching staff, and my son Steve Jr. and I were the only two around in 2005. We have different guys. Guys come and go. You encourage some guys to leave when it’s not working. We really do have an excellent group of guys now.”
Spurrier credited his team’s boosters as well, noting the athletics department received one donation of more than $1 million prior to 2005 and has had 10 since.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a few more as we keep going,” he added.
Those donations led to better facilities which attracted better players, starting with cornerback Stephon Gilmore in 2009, Spurrier said.
“If you look back and say, ‘How did all these players get here?’ I sort of go back to Stephon Gilmore,” Spurrier said. “He and his mom and family are certainly always welcome around here.”
Spurrier then turned his attention to this season, which begins with their first game against North Carolina since 2007 and second since 1991.
“A lot of people told me that our Georgia game last year was the loudest they had ever heard Williams-Brice. I said, ‘Let’s show those North Carolina Tar Heel fans and that team what the SEC noise can be and what Williams-Brice Stadium noise can be,’” Spurrier said. “They supposedly have that fast-paced up-tempo offense and this that and the other, so we will see if their hand signals are working.”
The Tar Heels finished second in the ACC in scoring (40.6 points per game) and total offense (485.6 yards per game).
“They broke all kinds of offensive records up there last year,” Spurrier said. “I think our defense is better than most of the teams they played against. Some of those teams in the ACC have not proven to be great defensive teams as we know, but we have to play well if we’re going to beat those guys.”