Here are five things we learned about South Carolina at SEC Media Days
The media believes in the Gamecocks
At least to a point. South Carolina was the runaway favorite to repeat as Eastern Division champion. The Gamecocks received 114 first-place votes compared to second-place Georgia’s 38 first-place votes. Every team in the division other than Vanderbilt received at least one vote to win the East. The confidence in Carolina stops short of an overall conference crown, though. In fact, according the media covering the league, the top three favorites to win the title are all in the West. Alabama is the media’s clear favorite with 98 votes to win the conference. LSU (29) and Arkansas (18) come next, followed by the Gamecocks and their 14 votes.
The opponents believe, too
At least the most important one does. The front half of South Carolina’s 2011 schedule should pose only one real problem, and that’s Sept. 10 at Georgia. The Gamecocks pushed the Bulldogs around last year, but Georgia has gotten better and the game is in Athens. The key to this game will be how well the Bulldogs can hold up after opening the season against Boise State, and how good their new freshman tailback – Isaiah Crowell – really is. Regardless of that, Georgia head coach Mark Richt knows he’ll have his hands full in week two. “I think (South Carolina is) a great football team,” Richt said. “I think they’ve tasted what it’s like to be a champion. They have a lot of guys returning in the middle of all that.”
Spurrier does, too, but he’s not getting ahead of himself
Spurrier acknowledged the fact that his team is well-placed to repeat as division champion. “We feel like we’ve probably assembled the best group of players we’ve had in the seven years now that I’ve been there,” he said. Then he added his usual caveat: “But time will tell.” Spurrier clearly is trying to remind people that the Gamecocks are not world beaters. It’s a subject he has brought up several times this offseason, and he went back to it for the regional media. “There’s a little air of optimism, which you have to have. That’s OK. We want our guys to believe we do have a chance to win the East, to win the SEC. Hopefully, we’ll be smart enough to know that it’s not going to be easy, and we’ve got to play extremely well, prepare well to give ourselves a chance to do it.”
Stephen Garcia is on the right track
As he has most of the offseason, Spurrier hinted that South Carolina’s starting quarterback will be fully reinstated before fall practice. “He’s done everything we’ve asked,” Spurrier said. “He’s certainly behaved very well, gone to all the workouts from what I understand. So, right now, in all likelihood, he will be set to return.” Spurrier also to continues to insist that backup Connor Shaw will get a shot at the starting job. “We feel whoever our quarterback is, he needs to go out there and earn it in preseason practice,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier is skeptical of commissioner’s plan
SEC commissioner Mike Slive opened media days with several wide-reaching proposals he wants to see at the very least discussed at the national level. Among them were some dramatic shifts, such as raising the minimum high school GPA required for freshman eligibility from 2.0 to 2.5 and instituting a progress requirement in high school, which would prevent highly recruited athletes from coasting through three years of high school only to pack in all their requirements in their final year and summer school. However, the one that most got Spurrier’s goat was Slive’s suggestion that scholarships be extended from one-year deals to “multi-year” agreements. Spurrier called the plan “a terrible idea.”