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Spurrier: Doubts go with the job

South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley talks with coach Steve Spurrier after calling a timeout in the second quarter during the Gamecocks game against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium on Thursday.
South Carolina quarterback Chris Smelley talks with coach Steve Spurrier after calling a timeout in the second quarter during the Gamecocks game against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium on Thursday. The State

In the span of one game, whispers from a few fans grew to full-throated opinions from plenty more: Has Steve Spurrier, who revolutionized college football offenses in the 1990s, seen the game pass him by?

South Carolina’s football coach shrugged off the question on Sunday.

“The way we play offense you’d say that,” Spurrier said. “There’s a lot of teams sputtering right now offensively. And two years ago our offense was pretty good. But it ain’t been pretty good lately, that’s for sure.”

In its first two games, South Carolina averaged 347 yards, ranking ninth in the SEC. It has committed seven turnovers. Both quarterbacks have struggled, and Spurrier said the job would be open again this week in practice.

Whether Chris Smelley or Tommy Beecher does the passing, the Gamecocks are not planning on having star receiver Kenny McKinley (hamstring) available for this weekend’s game against No. 2 Georgia.

“There’s a chance that he might be back, but as you know hamstring injuries tend to linger a few weeks,” Spurrier said. “I hope it’s not a severe one. So we’re just gonna have to wait and see.”

As for his system, Spurrier said no major changes are planned, though some things may be done “a little differently.” He also understood the fan unrest.

“That’s part of the game,” he said. “If your team doesn’t play well, you’re not a very good coach. I’m not a very good coach right now. That’s just the way life is. When I had a bunch of guys running around scoring a bunch of points, I was a real good coach. And, right now, I don’t have a bunch of guys running around scoring a whole bunch of points, so I’m not a very good coach.”

Georgia coach Mark Richt had his theory why Spurrier doesn’t have his offense going.

“It seems like coach Spurrier has always had a real consistent trigger man, and I think they’re still looking for that right now,” Richt said. “But I can promise you we’re concerned with coach Spurrier’s offense. We always have been. We have the ultimate respect for him.”

Two years ago, Richt gave up the play-calling to Mike Bobo, and the results have been good. This season, Spurrier let his son Steve Spurrier Jr., the receivers coach, take on additional play-calling duties.

Spurrier has stayed out of the way in some instances, while suggesting calls in others. But he didn’t seem to think the arrangement was the cause of the problems on game day; rather it was what was going on the rest of the week.

“We’re not dead set on the way we’ve been doing things around here. We’re gonna try and give our quarterbacks some better plays, and if we need to do some different things to hopefully give him better plays, then we need to do that.”

One thing Spurrier has already changed is the plan to stick with one quarterback. After saying in the preseason he could see Beecher starting the whole year, he said Sunday a dual-quarterback system might be preferable.

Spurrier pointed to his 2000 season at Florida, when Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman alternated, and the Gators still won the SEC championship.

Spurrier added that he hoped one of the quarterbacks would play well enough to be the unquestioned starter. Right now, however, he said Beecher and Smelley are playing “pretty evenly” with each other, which is to say not very good.

“We’ve got two quarterbacks who have not really distinguished themselves from each other, in my opinion. And I’ve gotta make the call,” Spurrier said.

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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