IF A FOOTBALL team does something special or memorable or even sometimes just plain odd, it often gets memorialized with a nickname.
The Monsters of the Midway. The Greatest Show on Turf. Etc.
The same goes for position groups or offenses or defenses.
The Steel Curtain. The Purple People Eaters. The No-Name Defense. The Grits Blitz. The Smurfs.
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South Carolina has had a couple of its own in its 121-year football history. Every Gamecock fan old enough to drive should know about the Black Magic team and its Fire Ants defense.
The 2015 Gamecocks already have their epithet waiting on them if they can produce a special season. It comes from coach Steve Spurrier – even if he didn’t intend for it.
The Unknown Bunch.
“We are an unknown bunch,” South Carolina’s 11th-year coach said. “We have guys out there who have never played too much. They can play. They just have to go prove they can.”
Spurrier has used “unknown” to describe his team or part of his team nearly a dozen times in the first week of fall camp. He did it again Sunday during the team’s media day, reminded of the reality while reading in The State that morning that his four quarterback candidates have combined to throw eight collegiate passes.
“We are unknown,” he said.
At the moment, that’s neither good nor bad – just fact. The Gamecocks are returning 13 starters from last year’s 7-6 team and only one – wide receiver Pharoh Cooper – likely would be recognized outside Columbia.
“We have some players who need to prove to everyone, ‘Hey, I can play wide receiver,’ and ‘Hey, I can play quarterback,’” Spurrier said.
Heck, they have a lot of players who just need to prove they can play period.
“We have a lot of coaching to do,” Spurrier said. “I can assure you of that.”
That workload is a blessing in a way. Not only does it make it easier to push the frustrating memories of 2014 out of the way, but it can rejuvenate a coaching staff.
Spurrier “is fired up about the season,” quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said. “We have had a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, and they are not here anymore. It is kind of exciting when you have a new crop. You recruit them because you think they can play. We have a lot of new faces and new bodies on both sides of the ball, and it’s a little refreshing.”
These nickname things can go the other way, too. The Aints and the Bungles come to mind.
For the Gamecocks, players such as Deebo Samuel, Marquavius Lewis, Jerell Adams, Jonathan Walton and Mike Matulis eventually will determine if The Unknown Bunch is remembered fondly – or not – in Columbia.