COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -Steve Spurrier won't walk out on that limb, not this year and certainly not before South Carolina shows him something on the field.
It was this time last summer when Spurrier talked up his team's chances to rise beyond the middle-of-the-Southeastern Conference status they'd established since joining the league in 1992. And for a while, Spurrier looked like his old Steve Superior ``Told-ya-so'' self when the Gamecocks opened 6-1 and were No. 6 in the country.
Then, South Carolina fell apart and finished with five straight losses to end their chase and miss out on a bowl game. With the Gamecocks a few days off from opening the season against North Carolina State on Thursday night, Spurrier won't guarantee much of anything about his team this season.
``We're trying to stay a little bit underneath the radar, whatever you want to call it, about not trying to talk too big and, hopefully, let our play do whatever talking needs to be said,'' Spurrier said Sunday.
``I don't know we've got a really good team, an average team or what. I don't know yet,'' he said.
Neither does anyone else.
South Carolina figures to have a more deep and experienced group at offensive line than in Spurrier's first three seasons. The tight ends and receivers, led by record-setter Kenny McKinley, are also strong. But the Gamecocks enter the season with a first-time starter at quarterback in Tommy Beecher and an inconsistent running game.
The defense returns several all-SEC players in defensive backs Emanuel Cook and Captain Munnerlyn and linebacker Jasper Brinkley. But even with those players, the Gamecocks didn't finish higher than ninth in overall SEC defense.
``Time can only tell if we're a different team than in the (past) three years I've been here,'' Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks enter with that five-game losing streak, the longest of Spurrier's stellar career. He thinks his players have turned the page from last season the way he has.
To Spurrier's thinking, the 2007 stumbles pointed out problems to fix for this fall. Spurrier hired new defensive coordinator in Ellis Johnson and a new special teams coordinator in Ray Rychleski, moves he expects will pay dividends. Spurrier's also modified his play-calling procedure so his son, Steve Jr., will map out the schemes each week with dad having the authority to modify.
``That's the only way you can look at it,'' Spurrier said. ``Those losses maybe got us some new coaches and maybe are going to get us over the hump. That's the way I'm looking at it.''
Still, it's hard to forget that losing streak at the end.
Defensive back Chris Culliver says teammates have used the defeats as motivation this summer, urging each other to press on during hot, humid practices.
``We don't want what happened to us last year to happen again,'' he said.
McKinley, the Gamecocks' senior receiver, was glad Spurrier set goals high a year ago and thinks the team is ready to live up to them this season.
``We've got a lot of good players now that we might not have had before,'' he said. ``We come in this year knowing that we can beat anybody. I can't wait for the season to get under way.''
Every now and then, Spurrier's old confidence sneaks in. He says the Gamecocks have better athletes across the board than his first three seasons. Beecher has the smarts and the talent, Spurrier thinks, to defy the coach's longheld practice of yanking passers for blown reads and bad plays. Plus, the thought of more than 82,000 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium for Thursday night has Spurrier pumped up.
``Hopefully, we've got a team that can give them hope and then give them results,'' Spurrier said.
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