|Hopeful Spurrier happy with summer|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 09 July 2007 23:29|
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Steve Spurrier has seen enough during his first two years at South Carolina - and in this year's offseason workouts - to give him hope the Gamecocks could be ready to compete for the Southeastern Conference title.|
It wasn't too long ago Spurrier walked among his players and marveled how tall they were. ``Dang,'' he recalled thinking. ``We're starting to look like a football team.''
With less than a month to go until South Carolina starts fall camp, Spurrier sounded as hopeful as he ever Monday as he talked about the Gamecocks prospects for success.
Spurrier sees positives signs all around: Near misses to national powers Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida; closing last year with three straight wins - the first time the Gamecocks accomplished since 1973; and probable NFL draftees in tailback Cory Boyd and linebacker Jasper Brinkley who turned down the pros to come back.
``Who's done that in the past? Y'all know anybody else who's stayed here when they could've been drafted?'' Spurrier asked. ``That's encouraging.''
If Spurrier's instincts are on target, the rest of the SEC may soon understand as well.
``I hope our guys came to the big games feeling like they have as much right to win'' as their opponents, Spurrier said.
Spurrier tried to correct much more than South Carolina's offensive schemes his first two seasons. He dealt with various off-field arrests and issues, and continually complained about the poor work ethic of some players and what he called their ``who cares'' attitude.
This summer, though, Spurrier said he has received reports that offseason workouts have been ``the best in three years.''
Most of Spurrier's incoming freshmen class, considered among the top 10 in the country by several recruiting experts, will start summer classes Tuesday and work out with upperclassmen to prepare for the start of fall camp on Aug. 4.
Spurrier has said he knew there would be hurdles to overcome when he took the South Carolina job. Even after the Gamecocks beat Tennessee and Florida in his first season, the head ball coach wasn't making reservations for the SEC title game in Atlanta.
How about this year?
A smile creases his face as he brushes the question aside. ``Oh, we're not there yet,'' Spurrier said.
The preseason football magazines he has seen place South Carolina in its traditional spot in the SEC East - behind Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, and ahead of Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
Until South Carolina proves it can succeed in close games - four of its five SEC losses last season came by a touchdown or less - no one will give them much credit, the coach said.
Spurrier says he thumbs through such publications to see if any of his guys were named to all-SEC teams. But he recently told Boyd and standout receiver Kenny McKinley that it looked like people forgot they played with the Gamecocks when their names didn't appear.
``Now, you've got a chance to show them,'' Spurrier said.
There is still some time left before Spurrier gets serious about this season. He will play this weekend in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nev.
The Gamecocks open the season Sept. 1 at Williams-Brice Stadium against Louisiana-Lafayette. They open the SEC season a week later at Georgia, a critical test if this is the year Spurrier leads them to the top.
``We're not too far off,'' Spurrier said. ``I just really believe our team is capable.''
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