It took Kevin Sumlin a while to process the fact that Steve Spurrier was resigning from South Carolina.
Texas A&M and former South Carolina athletics director “Eric Hyman texted me,” said Sumlin, the Aggies head coach. “I just texted back, ‘(Dang).’ ”
The visor-sporting Sumlin and Spurrier had become close in recent years through their mutual connection to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and went on at least one overseas golfing excursion together.
“He was kind of the guy I always wanted to be,” Sumlin said. “He’s had a huge impact on me. There are a lot of things that are football related that he brings to the table, but there are also a lot of things from a personal growth standpoint that people won’t ever know that he’s helped me with.”
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Sumlin’s reminiscing was short, though, because Spurrier’s resignation came two weeks before the Gamecocks will play his team at Kyle Field, and now the Aggies must prepare for a South Carolina team that is an unknown commodity under interim head coach Shawn Elliott.
“They are passionate. Any time there is a change, it does one or two things, it goes down or it goes up. It doesn’t stay the same,” Sumlin said. “There is some energy there that Shawn brings.”
Elliott hasn’t done anything to discourage the idea that his team will look different than it did under Spurrier and different even than it did in his first game as interim head coach against Vanderbilt.
“We’re trying to implement a little bit of different wrinkles, attack people a bit differently,” Elliott said this week.
Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis could have prepared his game plan for a Spurrier offense in his sleep. Chavis and Spurrier have faced off since Chavis was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator and Spurrier was Florida’s head coach in the 1990s.
“We had some battles, had some good battles,” Chavis said. “It was always fun to play against him.”
Now Chavis must prepare for a little bit of everything, and the possibility the Gamecocks will use freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez in some role will be a point of emphasis this week.
“Nunez is a different animal,” Chavis said. “With (South Carolina having) an open week, we don’t know fully what to expect so we have to prepare for a lot. Nunez can run the ball as good as any quarterback in this league. I understand he’s healthy, and I understand he’s going to play.”
Texas A&M’s offensive coaches have known all season they would face a different defense than the one they torched for 680 yards and 52 points last season thanks to Jon Hoke’s offseason hiring as South Carolina’s defensive co-coordinator.
“Everybody wants to talk about last year, they are a lot different than they were last year,” Sumlin said. “Jon has changed things. They are more of a keep-it-in-front-of-them style.”
The Gamecocks looked more aggressive on defense and special teams against Vanderbilt than they have all season, Sumlin noted.
“It looks to me like (special teams coordinator Joe Robinson) is getting some more time with special teams now because they look a little bit different than they have in the past,” Sumlin said.
Sumlin also is wary that South Carolina enters Saturday’s game on a winning streak, albeit a modest one.
“They have to look at it like they are 1-0,” he said. “They are looking to get win No. 2 this week.”
Gamecocks vs. Aggies
Who: South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC) at Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2)
Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
When: Noon, Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Line: Texas A&M by 15