CBS analysts Gary Danielson and Rick Neuheisel believe that Steve Spurrier hiring John Hoke to run the South Carolina defense was a move that needed to take place for the Gamecocks.
Speaking during a conference call to preview the SEC season on Monday, the two agreed that the hiring of Hoke will pay off for USC this year.
“It’s something that really had to happen in my mind,” Danielson said. “I think (Spurrier’s) team needed some new voices and ideas on defense.”
Neuheisel added that there is a comfort level between Spurrier and Hoke from their time together at Florida. He believes that is important on Spurrier’s staff, pointing out that the Head Ball Coach has Steve Spurrier Jr. and Scott Spurrier as assistants.
“John Hoke returning to coach with Steve Spurrier, I think, is a real comfort factor for Steve,” Neuheisel said. “He has two sons on his coaching staff. He likes his people around him. And I think it feels good to have John Hoke back, and I think that will help them and certainly help Steve.”
While Danielson and Neuheisel expect the defense to be improved, they aren’t sure about much more. Danielson said he struggles to predict USC’s season each year.
“The toughest team for me to get a handle on every year is South Carolina,” Danielson said. “One year, I think they’re going to have a really strong defense and their offense carries them. The next year, I think their offense is going to be really strong and their defense has a bunch of turnovers and they have people sacking the quarterback and making plays.”
That said, the two expect Spurrier to do whatever is necessary to give the Gamecocks a fighting chance in every game. Neuheisel said Spurrier is no longer worried about stats or style points — he just wants to win.
“He’s going to find a way to put together a team. He’s going to think outside of the box if necessary to create an opportunity to get one more point than you do,” Neuheisel said. “He’s not so worried about statistics anymore. That might have been the case early when he was in the fun-and-gun era. But now it’s about finding a way to get one more point.”
Neuheisel went to every SEC team this summer to take in a practice. One player stood out to him during his trip to Columbia.
“I will tell you this, I was on the practice field, and the youngster who’s a junior college player, keep your eye on No. 8, Marquavius Lewis,” he said. “He looked the part when I was watching them practice, so hopefully that will mean good things for their defense.”
As far as the entire SEC, Danielson said he has no idea what will happen. He is, however, surprised that no one is giving Dak Prescott or Mississippi State a chance.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been doing this in the about 20 years that we have a returning quarterback coming back to a league that was a contender, not only for the best team in the country, but a contender for the Heisman, that his team is picked last. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Danielson said.
“It’s really a crapshoot in this league. One thing you do know, if you win the championship you’re probably going to make it into the Final Four.”
From watching practice at every school in the SEC, Neuheisel likes Alabama and Georgia to meet in Atlanta.
“My guesses are strictly off the eyeball test,” he said. “I think that’s going to be a whale of a game in Atlanta if it pans out.”