FORT MILL — It was the same song and dance repeated at several other Gamecock Club functions this spring — Steve Spurrier cruised in, answered a few questions from the media and then went into his spiel before a roomful of garnet-and-black-clad folks.
Definitely not the same as last year, but no one really expected it to be.
“He’s at least in a good mood,” York County Gamecock Club President Chip Comer said.
A year after walking into Fort Mill High and signing scores of commemorative footballs featuring the final scoreboard shot of South Carolina’s 31-28 victory at Clemson in 2006, Spurrier returned to the same location on Wednesday with a different approach.
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“Our season last year was a little disappointing,” Spurrier said. “Only thing I can say is, we weren’t good enough. We’re moving on.”
The fans and Spurrier still seemed to be feeling the effects of the five-game losing streak that sank a 6-1 start and No. 6 national ranking, but Spurrier was still shooting from the hip with some one-liners.
“I don’t know ... you watched it,” he responded to one fan asking what happened in the second half of last season’s 21-15 victory at North Carolina.
With the levity aside, Spurrier touched on several subjects, including USC’s improved defense, heading into its first year under Ellis Johnson.
Spurrier took a few questions from the audience and managed to keep his smile intact, even when there were a few cracks about the defense’s collapse last year and some wondering how the Gamecocks match up with N.C. State, the season-opening opponent.
The coach even kept his cool when the inevitable Stephen Garcia question was asked.
“If he does all he requires, he’ll be back on the team in August,” Spurrier said before again endorsing Tommy Beecher as his starting quarterback if the season began today. “Can’t worry about him right now ... got Tommy and Chris (Smelley) to worry about.”
The presentation ended with a video of the future improvements at USC and the rehashing of the “The Game is On” motto, before Spurrier walked out on a short note.
“The gamecock bird fights until it’s dead,” he said. “Our fans have proven we dang sure aren’t dead yet.”
Extra point. Spurrier also said he was unaware that starting right tackle Justin Sorensen was drafted by the Canadian Football League. Spurrier said he thought Sorensen, a senior, would definitely return for his final year.
Cloninger is a reporter with The (Rock Hill) Herald, a McClatchy newspaper