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Former S.C. player does not play 'What if?'

HOOVER, Ala. — Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers was not interested in staying close to home when the former Marlboro County star chose a school four years ago.

And for good reason: South Carolina was not his home.

Ayers moved from Jersey City, N.J., to Clio when he was 15 to live with the family of his cousin, Ra’Sean Dickey, who is forgoing his final season at Georgia Tech to play professional basketball in the Ukraine.

Ayers said Lou Holtz’s staff recruited him hard and he visited USC before signing with the Vols.

“I wasn’t originally from South Carolina. I just lived there for high school. So I didn’t have those ties to South Carolina like a lot of older people do,” Ayers said Thursday at SEC media days. “But at the same time, I just wanted to choose the best school for me. And coming out of high school, I believed that Tennessee was the best school for me.”

Ayers, a fifth-year senior, led the Vols in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (12) last year as a pass-rush specialist who did not start any games. Ayers, listed as the starter at right end, is not sure his college decision would have been different had Steve Spurrier been the Gamecocks’ coach when he was being recruited.

“You never know how things would have turned out,” he said. “Coach Spurrier’s a great coach. Anybody would want to play for him. But it’s hard to say how I would have felt in 2004.”

Taking the high road. LSU coach Les Miles took a shot at Alabama at a booster outing in New Orleans last weekend, telling fans “not to make too much of that (Alabama) game as it seems like a lot of teams in Louisiana beat that team.”

Besides losing to LSU 41-34 in his first year in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban’s team was shocked by Louisiana-Monroe 21-14 last season.

Miles refused to take the bait when a reporter lobbed an Alabama question at him Wednesday. A day later, Saban would not be drawn into any verbal sparring.

“He told the truth. He told it like it was,” Saban said of Miles’ comments. “We need to earn the respect. That’s what we’ll work to do. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Praise for Nix. USC’s loss is Mississippi’s gain — at least that is how first-year Rebels coach Houston Nutt views his hiring of former Gamecocks defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who left Spurrier’s staff after three seasons when he was not assured of keeping his title.

Nutt said he always respected the way Nix played and coached at Southern Miss.

“Tyrone to me is such an excellent defensive coordinator because of his passion, his energy. It’s very contagious. You look at him, he still looks like a linebacker. He gives (that energy) to his players,” Nutt said.

He said it. “I’m from West Virginia, man. We don’t even know who Freud is up there.”

— Saban when asked what psychologists he had read. Saban, who mentioned he had “putzed around” in psychology during graduate school, has read motivational books by Rick Pitino, Pat Riley and former track star Michael Johnson.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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