South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier spoke with GoGamecocks The Magazine's Joseph Person during the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., about the upcoming season, his decision to let Steve Spurrier Jr. serve as the primary play-caller and his unwavering goal to win an SEC championship at USC.
Q: You’re coming up on your fourth season. Is the South Carolina job harder than you thought it would be?
A: It’s about what I expected it to be. We’ve made progress. We’ve got better players and hopefully we’ll coach better. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens this year.
Q: You’re a guy who likes to win, expects to win. Have you reached a frustration point?
A: Well, no. There’ve been reasons we’ve not been quite as successful as we had hoped. And we’re trying to correct those areas. We’ve got some new coaches. I know we’ve got better athletes. So we’re going to kick it off and believe we’re going to have a very good team this year.
Q: Are you surprised you have not settled on a quarterback at this point?
A: Well, that’s one thing that we’ve not had, amongst other things, in three years, and that’s a quarterback that we can really hang our hat on and clearly be the leader. Blake (Mitchell) played pretty well at times. Other times (he) struggled. And the offensive line has struggled. Defensively, we’ve struggled. We’ve not been a real good team. So we’ve got a lot of room for improvement. Again, I’ve not done a good job coaching, and I don’t think our coaching staff has been super. So we’re going to try to be a lot better. And we’ve got to get guys to play harder and play with more discipline and make plays when they’re in position. It’s a total team effort, and we’ve not quite been as good as we’d hoped. Yet.
This is our fourth year. And everybody knows our big recruiting class was two years ago. The other recruiting classes were pretty good. Kenny McKinley making (Playboy) preseason All-American, and Jasper Brinkley will, in all likelihood, be preseason all-conference, along with Kenny. And we haven’t had many guys make those kind of teams. So we’re making some progress.
Q: Your defense has all kinds of returners.
A: We’ve got returners back that might get beat out by some freshmen and sophomore guys that we have. And that’s a good sign. Some of those guys that started on defense last year may not be starters this year. Same as on offense. We’ve got competition for playing time at a lot of positions.
Q: Why the decision to let Steve Jr. get more involved in the play-calling?
A: He’s not going to call all the plays. He called a bunch of the plays last year. He suggested a lot of plays here and there. The only thing I’m trying to do is allow him to be sort of the principal guy. But I’ll interject often. It’ll be sort of a two-man effort as far as calling the plays. So I’m still the offensive coordinator, and I’m going to get much, much more involved with the quarterbacks. This spring I tried to spend more time with the offensive line and do this and that. But our quarterbacks need a lot of coaching. If Tommy Beecher’s going to come around, then I’ve got to really invest a lot of time with him. And see if we can’t try to get a quarterback that’s, shoot, a guy that can maybe be all-conference someday. I’ve had a whole bunch of all-conference quarterbacks. Haven’t had one at South Carolina yet. So hopefully maybe Beecher or whoever can develop.
Q: How much of that was done to help Steve Jr. further his career?
A: Nah, he’s doing all right in his career. My job is to help us win at South Carolina. My job is not to promote our coaches. All the coaches promote themselves if their players play well. As far as what Steve Jr.’s done, gosh, Sidney Rice and Kenny McKinley have set all kinds of records. They’re wide receivers. So he’s got a track record going for himself. He’s proven he’s a good coach.
Q: You’re 63, but in better shape than most people your age. How much longer do you think you’ll do this?
A: I always work on the four-to-five-more years principle. I really want to see all these guys through and keep recruiting. And (freshman quarterback) Aramis Hillary - watch out for Aramis Hillary. This young man loves football and he loves everything about playing quarterback, loves South Carolina. So who knows what all’s going to happen this year.
Q: ‘Why not us’ is what you asked when you were hired. Do you still think you can win a championship here?
A: Yeah. You look at what we’ve done. The four big teams are Florida, Clemson, Georgia and Tennessee. That’s our big four. OK. We’ve beaten all of them once. We’ve lost a heartbreaker to all of them once. We got blown out by Florida this year. I call it blown out because we couldn’t stop ‘em. But all the other games we’ve been in there, but we can’t quite make the play. So we’ve got to coach better and play better.
We do have better players, I know that. We’ve got better athletes this year than we’ve ever had. But we’re not talking until we do something. I probably overestimated our team last year as far as saying we had a chance if we were in a position to win the conference. Realistically, we had one guy drafted, Cory Boyd. So we didn’t have the team to do it. That was my mistake of trying to think maybe we could. So this year we’re not going to do anything, except to say, 'Hey, we’re looking forward to playing N.C. State' and trying to become a good team because we’ve not become one yet.