Steve Spurrier arrived in Hoover, Ala., Tuesday afternoon for the unofficial start of his 21st season as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference, and ninth at South Carolina.
Spurrier will hold his press conference later Tuesday here at SEC media days, but shortly after he arrived, he spent a few minutes entertaining questions from local media vipers.
“I’ve been here 21 years,” Spurrier said of SEC media days. “It’s better than not coming. That means you got fired, right?”
In terms of non-pithy comments, Spurrier said that his All-American defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, is in a good position, physically and mentally, as he prepares to handle all the attention that accompanies his copious skills.
“He’s ready to go,” Spurrier said. “He’s had an excellent summer from what I understand. He’s been at just about all the workouts. If he did miss one, he made it up, if for some reason he couldn’t be there. I think he’s lost a little weight. He just told me he ran 4.4 something in the 40 today or yesterday, whenever they did their 40-yard run. So he’s ready to go.
“We understand the other teams will have a plan to try to neutralize him. So we have to move him around a bit (along the defensive line, as USC did the past two seasons), so they don’t know exactly where he is all the time.
“He’s done pretty well with (handling attention). If he gets in the Heisman hunt, that’d be neat, but he can’t worry about that. I think he’ll tell you his goals are to try to help us win the SEC, something that’s never happened at South Carolina and something we hope to do someday. Who knows if it can happen this year or not? That certainly will be our goal.”
Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966 and has been a prominent figure in college football for most of the past two decades. Has he given Clowney any advice about how to handle publicity that comes with such a position?
“Not too much,” Spurrier said. “He knows how to handle it pretty well. He’s a team player, so these individual honors, they’re nice, but what’s most important is if your team can win a championship. Those are the things that you share with your teammates and family and friends. He’s pretty good about all that.”
The Gamecocks, of course, are coming off back-to-back 11-2 seasons in which they went 6-2 in the SEC both teams and lost the Eastern Division to Georgia both times. The Gamecocks played in their only SEC championship game in 2010, when they went 9-5 and 5-3. Spurrier doesn’t think expectations entering this season are any higher than they were entering the past two.
“I hope our expectations are up there, but they’ve been up there somewhere the last two or three years,” Spurrier said. “We’ve had a team capable of winning the SEC. It just hasn’t worked out. Who knows if we will this or not? But we’ll give it our best shot. The team has a chance to get to Atlanta, sure. We had a chance last year and the year before.
“My message (to the team) is going to be that we think we’ve got a pretty good team. As we go through the season, we’ll find out if we’ve got a real good team, an outstanding team or an average team. But we do have two good quarterbacks ready to go. Some of the young receivers need to come around. But mainly, the linebackers. That’s where we had all the seniors last year.”