Steve Spurrier stood at center court at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday afternoon speaking glowingly of his team’s immediate past and, indirectly, to its immediate future.
Spurrier lauded members of South Carolina’s most recent 11-2 team, which finished with a school-best No. 4 national ranking, but he was also talking to the about 20 recruits sitting among the 14,302 fans attending the Gamecocks men’s basketball game against Ole Miss. He planned to drill home that point at a dinner for the recruits later in the day.
“You are going to be on that floor maybe next year and the next year and the next year. What do you want me to say about you? You want to have 11 wins? You want to be Top 10? Then we have to work the way these guys have,” Spurrier planned to tell the group.
Many of the football team’s starters from the 2013 team, including NFL early entrants Jadeveon Clowney, Victor Hampton and Bruce Ellington, attended the nearly 10-minute ceremony during which Spurrier, Clowney and Ellington addressed the crowd.
Quarterback Connor Shaw, who played in an NFL draft showcase game in California on Saturday, filmed a short video that was shown.
“We have learned that life is a lot nicer when you are in the Top 10,” Spurrier told a raucous crowd.
Spurrier also noted the team’s 18-game home winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation, and thanked the team’s fans for their part in it. The 68-year-old coach got his loudest ovation when he mentioned the Gamecocks’ five-game winning streak against Clemson.
“It’s not a three-year streak, not a four-year, it’s a five-year,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to beat that big orange team from the Upstate about five straight years pretty convincingly.”
He later sideswiped the Tigers again while introducing Ellington to the crowd and pointing out that Ellington caught three touchdown passes in his career against Clemson.
“I think that’s three more than their first round pick,” Spurrier said, referencing Sammy Watkins’ inability to get into end zone against South Carolina.
Later, away from the frenzy of his fans, Spurrier acknowledged his mentions of South Carolina’s archrival are simply his way of preaching to the choir.
“I think y’all blow that up,” he said. “Obviously, our fans love beating Clemson, OK? The old-time Gamecock fans have suffered for years and year and years as we know, so they are enjoying it, and they should enjoy it. They have been on the short stick most of the time. When I talk, it’s just all talk as everybody knows, and it’s for our people. It’s not for the other school’s people, and when (Clemson coach Dabo Swinney) talks, it’s for his people. It doesn’t bother me, I can assure you, anything he says. That’s what we do in the offseason, we talk. I am talking to the Gamecocks. The other people shouldn’t listen to me. Really.”
Other subjects Spurrier broached:
-- His quarterback competition.
There is not one. Rising senior Dylan Thompson is “next year’s quarterback,” Spurrier said.
“Of course he is,” Spurrier said. “Why open it up when he’s the only one who has played? Played well. He is without question going to be our quarterback unless he gets
-- His team’s No. 4 final ranking.
Spurrier pointed out the only difference between the ranking and the previous two years when the Gamecocks finished No. 8 and No. 7 is how other teams fared in bowl games.
“Clemson beat Ohio State, Alabama got beat by Oklahoma. Baylor got knocked off,” Spurrier said. “That’s how it happened, but we appreciate it. We know we had basically the same year. Hopefully, we can do a little bit better next year.”
-- His raise this week, which will increase his salary to $4 million annually.
“When you are successful and there is a lot of money in college football and they are still not giving it to the players, which I wish we would so I guess they give it to the coaches so,” he said.
-- His eventual retirement.
“I didn’t plan to still be coaching right now, but it’s been going pretty well,” Spurrier said. “Obviously, I can remember everybody’s name. People tell me my memory is OK, and I can still call the plays. Why stop?”
-- The spring game, which will be April 12 in Williams-Brice Stadium.