STEVE SPURRIER FIRST talks about how South Carolina's woes on offense this season have little to do with play-calling. He says the problems are related more to execution and blocking.
Then Spurrier offers that he and his coaching staff likely will change play-calling duties beginning next season. It makes senses, he says, for quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus to call plays.
So what to make of all this? My guess is Spurrier will not go the way of his predecessor, who threw his son in front of an 18-wheeler. Spurrier is doing the right thing by protecting his son Steve Spurrier Jr. from the heat fans have been applying during USC's recent slide.
That is why Spurrier often shoulders the blame when a botched play comes into question. When he first named his son the play-caller before the 2008 season, Spurrier said he would take responsibility for bad play-calls and Junior would get credit for good play-calls.
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For the most part, Spurrier has stuck to that philosophy, saying Monday, "I don't need any credit if it's a good play."
You might recall that the previous USC coach decided at the conclusion of the 2003 season that his son no longer would be the team's offensive coordinator. To this day, Lou Holtz has not informed Skip Holtz of the demotion.
Unlike with the Holtz family, Spurrier's son still will be invited for Christmas dinner, no matter Junior's duties next season. That's because Spurrier believes Junior and Mangus have done an excellent job of relaying plays through him this season.
He also believes both are outstanding coaches. Spurrier praises Mangus for his work with fast-maturing quarterback Stephen Garcia, and Junior for his tutelage of promising young receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley, as well as previous pass catchers Sidney Rice and Kenny McKinley.
The problem is Junior probably never got the feel for calling plays during a game like his father has. Hey, who could possibly live up to those expectations? Spurrier is considered one of the great play-callers in the history of the college game.
"It doesn't work, and I know it when you've got your son there," Spurrier says. "He cannot be the coordinator. It doesn't work, and we're not going in that direction."
At the same time, Spurrier realizes the time is approaching when he needs to be more of the program's CEO and let the young bucks do most of the coaching, including play-calling. He has tried the past two seasons to let go of the reins of the offense, but it has not been easy.
"I've been calling most of the plays," Spurrier says. "(Junior's) been up (in the press box), and at times I'm glad to get the plays from him. He's got a list of them to fire in there. But I would say 75-80 percent of the time I'm giving it to G.A. to go in there. The other night, maybe I gave 'em 90 percent of them."
Spurrier's genius was on full display for three quarters Saturday against top-ranked Florida. The Gators love to blitz off the corners, and Spurrier time and again read the attack before the ball was snapped. He signaled to Garcia from the sideline and changed into runs and short passes that countered Florida's blitzes.
Finally, in the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, Florida abandoned its corner blitzes and came with pressure up the middle. After getting two sacks in the first three quarters, Florida managed four in the final quarter. Spurrier and his play-callers had no answer for Florida's inside pressure.
That also illustrated Spurrier's point that it is not the play-calling as much as it is the execution that has hindered USC's offense. It would not have mattered what plays were called in the fourth quarter because USC's offensive line could not block well enough to hold off Florida's defensive front.
"I just think the play-calling is not our problem right now," Spurrier says. "Our problem is blocking, blocking, taking care of the ball and trying to hit some guys. I don't think this is the play-calling."
Nevertheless, Spurrier says he probably will change the way plays are called next season.
"I'm not exactly sure how we're going to do it next year," Spurrier says. "A lot of people, and I do too, believe the quarterback coach should do the play-calling. That may be the direction we end up going, with G.A. calling. He's done it in the past, too.
"But, obviously, the guy who coaches the quarterback, usually everywhere in the country, is doing the play-calling. We'll finish up this year, and then we'll look at what the best direction to take next year."
Until then, the more pressing issue for the coaching staff is dealing with players who publicly question their coaches. Safety Chris Culliver called out defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson following USC's loss at Alabama, and tight end Weslye Saunders suggested following the loss at Arkansas that Junior was taking care of his receivers at the expense of the tight ends.
"Really, you shouldn't worry about who calls the danged play," Spurrier says he told the team recently. "You worry about running the play called."
No doubt, better execution of blocks and fewer dropped passes would go a long way to solving any play-calling problems. In fact, should USC ever eliminate missed assignments, turnovers and costly penalties, most fans will not give a hoot about who is calling the plays.