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Spurrier Q&A: USC could 'go big' soon

Steve Spurrier puts on his headset during the fourth quarter.
Steve Spurrier puts on his headset during the fourth quarter.

Florida is not certain when its coach will be back.

The Gators' quarterback is gone, and so are the starting quarterbacks at Georgia and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, South Carolina will lose only six starters - three on each side of the ball. Among those returning are an improving quarterback and a couple of freshman All-Americans. On paper, it looks like 2010 could be a good season for the Gamecocks.

But as he prepared for today's Papajohns.com Bowl against Connecticut, USC coach Steve Spurrier refrained from calling the Gamecocks SEC contenders next season - mindful that the last time he did so, his '07 team spoiled a 6-1 start and top-10 ranking by losing its final five games.

But in an interview with The State before USC left for Birmingham, Ala., Spurrier talked about the potential for the Gamecocks to "go big" under his watch, be it next year or sometime soon.

Georgia, Florida and Tennessee all will be breaking in new quarterbacks next year. You have Stephen Garcia and a lot of other players back. Do you think you can contend next year?

We hope to. But we're worried about the bowl game right now. We'll talk about all that once this game's over. But always looking to the future - we're having a really fine recruiting class, and if we can get about three to five more commitments and guys sign with us, then it really will be probably another a top-10 class or top-15 at worst.

So we're excited about that. We're pleased that players are going to class, doing what's right. I think we had our highest GPA ever this last semester. Our guys are graduating. So, finally, over 90 percent of our guys are really doing what's right. And hopefully that'll pay off in more victories.

Do you want to set the bar a little higher at some point?

We're not putting pressure on our guys. I think that was the way to go this year. We were actually underdogs eight of 12 games ... playing so many freshmen, and Stephen Garcia really didn't do much last year. So that's just where we were this year. So our guys have actually accomplished a good season, and if we're successful in the bowl game, it will be a very good year.

If Garcia continues to improve and make the commitment, how good can he be?

Well, he's got to keep improving. Keep learning and trying to learn and trying to improve all the time. He's come a long way, and he can still get better. We hope that happens.

Will we see more of Stephon Gilmore in the "WildCock" next year?

Yeah, we need to do it once or twice a game probably and add a few little wrinkles as we go. He's a natural player. He can play anywhere on the field except offensive line or defensive line. He probably could play decent there, too. He can run with it, and he can throw it, he can dodge guys. He's a player we need to use more.

You've had Steve Spurrier Jr. on your staff. Scotty's been here playing for you. How nice has it been to have your family together?

It's been all right, but it's always a delicate subject. Fortunately, Scotty understood his role. Came as a walk-on. He and eight other players were put on scholarship this year because we had 'em all available. So we reward walk-ons, especially if they're in their last year. So Scotty earned a scholarship. He's done well on the scout team. He's just sort of one of the guys out there. There's never been, that I know of, any animosity, 'He's the coach's son' or anything like that. He does what everybody else does.

He chose to come here and be a walk-on rather than maybe go try to play Division III ball, which I think he could have played. He's a nifty little receiver out there that I think could have played at a lower level. But he chose to hang around his dad and his brother, and he does want to coach someday. I'm not encouraging him to go into coaching. Coaching can be a wonderful profession and it can be a difficult, frustrating profession. You get in the wrong place, and you can work your butt off, they still may not win.

Talking about coaching, you mentioned recently that it's a tough thing when your son's calling plays.

I don't think it works that a coach's son should ever be the offensive coordinator and run the show. It just doesn't work, because as soon as it goes bad, you've got problems. And that hasn't happened. I've actually been calling about 80 percent of the plays most of the time. Every now and then I'll say, 'Y'all go ahead and call some runs or this, that and the other.' I've made about all the calls. ... That hasn't been our problem, the play-calling. Execution and blocking - hopefully we can block a little bit better in the future.

Would it be beneficial for Steve Jr. at some point to be an offensive coordinator somewhere else?

Yeah, if that opens up he can go be an offensive coordinator. He may say, 'I need to go do that if I want to be a head coach.' We've talked about that just briefly. But he loves living in Columbia. His wife's a doctor here. (Melissa Spurrier is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner.) Assistant coaches nowadays appreciate having a job at a good place. And all of our assistants, I think they all enjoy being here. And they understand, be thankful you have a job in this economy and (with) coaches being let go. I must have had 20 guys out of work wanting to be the offensive line coach. It's a tough profession.

He's appreciative of being here and enjoys living here. Just because you may go be an offensive coordinator somewhere, if that don't work, then your coaching career's over. There's always pluses and minuses of not being the top dog or the coordinator and so forth. Anyway, someday I'm sure that's something he needs to do. Maybe not right now.

You've talked about breaking Rex Enright's record (of 64 career wins).

Like I tell everybody, health-wise I'm the same as I was about when I was 45. Work out probably more now than I did in my 40s. It's possible. We have to average more than seven wins a year. I'm hoping we can jack that up to eight, nine, 10. Who knows what the future holds? We're in a tough league. There's no question about that. For us to really win nine, 10 games, we've got to have a powerful line of scrimmage. Our offensive linemen gotta really get stronger and be able to try to dominate a little bit better than we have in the past. And the quarterback play's gotta be better, wide receivers, running backs. Defense, we've got to continue. We've been in the top four in the SEC the last two years. That's pretty doggone good. To be third behind Alabama and Florida this year is very good.

With Ellis (Johnson) here. And he's another guy, he could go a lot of places and be defensive coordinator and maybe even head coach. But he and his wife love Columbia also. So we've got an excellent situation with him being here.

What's your take on the coaches-in-waiting trend?

I think it can work and then it cannot be a good thing. If the team's winning and you know they're going to keep winning, it's not a bad deal. But I'd put a time on it. A lot of schools don't have a time on it - Texas, for an example.

BCS proponents point to this year and say the system worked again. But how do you explain that to Boise, TCU and Cincinnati?

I think there's a chance we'll have a playoff someday because there's just too many teams and people upset with the way we do it. Cincinnati, they almost got in. That one second on the clock (in Texas' win against Nebraska), and they would have gotten in simply because they were in the Big East in a BCS conference, whereas TCU (is not). I watched both of them play. I thought TCU is a little bit stronger team. But since TCU is not in a BCS conference, they didn't have a chance. I think it'd be very simple to get eight teams and start playing the end of the season. Play in December sometime.

Would you incorporate the bowls?

Yeah, keep the bowls. You're only talking about eight teams. Gosh, we've got 34 bowls.

Can you envision life without coaching?

Yeah, there's going to be a day down the road - hopefully, as long as my health stays good. The doc tells me I'm in good health. I would like to see us go big here, and I just really believe it's possible. You've got Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery, two first-team All-American freshmen. We've got some good linemen committed, I think, that are going to be really good players.

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