Thankfully, college football season is barreling down the tracks at us, and in South Carolina’s case, it’s two tracks, moving side-by-side in a race to see which will eventually tell the story of the 2015 season.
On the Gamecocks’ first track is the depth chart, a list of names known to very few who are being tasked with rebounding from a 7-6 season.
On the second track, coach Steve Spurrier is fueling the fires of optimism despite all the question marks that are driving the engine on that parallel course.
Spurrier, who will begin his 11th season at the helm when South Carolina opens practice on Aug. 4, knows there are plenty of legitimate questions about his team.
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“We are looking forward to practice,” he said Wednesday after his annual media golf outing, which his foursome won with a round of 59 at Cobblestone Park Golf Club. “A lot of positions are up for grabs.”
Still, he kept shoveling coal into the don’t-sleep-on-us furnace.
“We may have a better team than a lot of people think. We think we’ve got a very competitive team,” he said.
And, “We think (we have) good players. They just haven’t played a lot some of them. And we think we are going to coach better this year. I think the entire staff will have a better coaching season.”
It continued on the theme he began crafting at SEC Media Days two weeks ago and again during an impromptu media gathering last week. The winningest coach in school history is not hedging his bets even though he doesn’t have the strongest hand at the table. In fact, he keeps pushing more chips into the middle of the table.
“I’m betting on our guys,” he said.
He means that literally. Spurrier bet Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin $10 that South Carolina’s defense will be more improved than the Aggies’ defense, which also is under new management.
The Gamecocks had one first-team preseason All-SEC selection – Pharoh Cooper as an all-purpose player – earlier this month in voting held at SEC Media Days. Brandon Shell, a third-team offensive lineman, was the only other South Carolina offensive or defensive player on either the first-, second- or third-team list.
Their leading returning passer is a wide receiver (Cooper).
Their defense was the second-most generous in the SEC last year.
All of those warts were on display recently for Spurrier when he stepped on the treadmill only to find a replay of this team’s 42-35 loss to Auburn last year on the SEC Network.
“That dang Auburn game” is how he referred to it Wednesday.
Still, he’s a believer that this year will be better.
“We are looking forward to practice and fielding a team that our fans will be proud of again,” he said. “At times last year it was hard to be proud of our team, myself included. As the head coach, coaching staff, we probably didn’t do our best job. We need to put a group of guys out there who are going to play their hearts out, play with a bunch of effort and act like they really care about the University of South Carolina. That’s a mission and the biggest goal every year.”