Spurrier outspoken as ever

With his team rated a consensus No. 1 headed into the season, Florida Head Coach Steve Spurrier certainly ought to happy. But that's not necessarily the case. "All coaches have incentive clauses in our contracts," he said. "We all get a little extra dough for finishing in the Top 10 and winning championships. But I don't know of anyone that has being named ‘preseason No. 1' in their incentive plan."

"I think we've got a good team, but we're not quite as good as other people have predicted," Spurrier continued. "I called my son on the coaching staff at Oklahoma and told him ‘You guys must not have done very much last year. Because we're No. 1.'

"For some reason a lot of people think we've got the best team. We ended up eighth in the conference in total defense, sixth in scoring defense. We were 11th in the SEC running the football. Statistically you wonder how we won. We got turnovers, and we usually scored when we made a drive. We didn't waste a lot of yards. We were first in the conference in scoring and turnovers. Last year Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee all had a chance to beat us, but we came out on top."

Ever since Bob Stoops left the Gators to take over at Oklahoma, the Florida defense hasn't been the same. "John Hoke is entering his third year as defensive coordinator," Spurrier said. "He's learned a lot. I think he'll be smarter.

"I think we can run the ball. We didn't give ourselves a lot of chances last year. Obviously a strong defense and a running game go together. If you're strong on defense, then you have a chance to run a bit more."

Spurrier has taken flack in the past for scheduling patsies early on, but this year he defends the Gator slate. "Our schedule will once again be the toughest in the country," Spurrier said. "Marshall and Florida State are two of our out-of-conference games. Marshall has gotten used to winning, and they're coming to the Swamp to beat us. It'll be different than a lot of opening games we've had. We've got Tennessee and Florida State at home, and eight SEC games. It won't be easy."

Speaking of schedules, Spurrier would definitely like to rearrange his a bit and move the Seminoles to earlier in the season. "Playing Florida State before the SEC championship game is tough on our guys. We've tried to get the game moved to within the first four. I talked to Bob Stoops last year and asked him how he'd like to play Florida State before the Big 12 championship game instead of Oklahoma State? He said that was crazy. We'd like to get them earlier. It can be done. Our schedule is such that for us to go to the BCS, we've got to win them all at the end.

"The Tennessee game would probably be more exciting at the end of the season. But we've been pretty fortunate. It seems like something good always seems to happen to us every time we play. We're not that much better to have won that many times, but we've got enough big games at the end. If we played Florida State earlier and those guys at the end, it would build more excitement for Commissioner Kramer."

Is there any benefit to being ranked No. 1? "One of the plusses to being rated so high is free publicity around the country," Spurrier said. "People say those Gators must be pretty good. As coaches we've got to make the players understand we haven't won anything yet. The ranking doesn't mean anything. You've got to make sure your players understand they're not quite as good as everybody is telling them.

"We've all seen what publicity does to a lot of schools and coaches and teams. Just last season Alabama was ranked No. 3 and they were talking about national titles. And we all know what happened there."

Later in the morning, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville would repeat the conventional wisdom that uncertainty at quarterback will cripple a team. But Spurrier clearly disagrees. "Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin will be starting practice even," he explained. "They're too close to name a starter. If you've got two good players and one struggles, we will use the other guy. Of the SEC titles we've won, many times we've used two quarterbacks. It can be done. As long as you convince your players it's no big deal.

"One positive in playing two quarterbacks is that if the other guys is not playing well, then they backup is ready. He knows we will put him in. Some people think it hurts a guy's feelings to pull him out. But for some reason, nobody ever worries about hurting the left tackle's feelings or the middle linebacker's. You've got to earn your way every week."

Always known for speaking his mind, Spurrier had some choice words for hotheaded (and loose-lipped) Gator players as well. "We hope our guys learn to lead by example. We've had too many guys talking the last few years. We used to let the players vote on captains, but it seems like it got to be too much of a popularity contest. This year we'll name game captains and at the end of the year the coaches will select permanent captains. We want them to lead by example, instead of a lot of mouth, which you know we've had at times in the past few years."

What about NCAA restrictions on practice time? Have they become too restrictive? "We like the 20-hour rule. We go by it. We play golf. I'm not sure how many other schools follow it. We go by it. It's a rule. I think it's fine. A lot of schools don't give the players a day off. They call it voluntary to come in and run and watch film. But we give them the full Sunday off."

Laughing at the question, Spurrier declined to offer any words to the SEC's three new coaches. "I'm not into advice. I don't give advice. Coaches come and go. Commissioners are the only ones that have a lifetime contract. Everybody is trying to do their best. 50 percent lose every week. There are no ties anymore. So there are going to be coaches coming and going all the time. We just hope we're not one of the ones going."

What about Florida State? Does competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference offer them an advantage? "The ACC is a little bit of an advantage for them. Plus having no conference championship game. Some suggest they ought to play the Big East champion. Commissioner got our championship game taken care of, but he didn't get all of them done. He just got the SEC game done.

The Big 12 is talking about canceling their (championship game). It can go both ways. We've always looked forward to the game. We haven't done very well against FSU the last three years, and we've gotten some grief from our fans. If we can get to it, the SEC championship is the biggest game of the year."

How badly was Florida hurt by their probation? "We didn't lose any scholarships or anything, we were just banned from post-season play. We just couldn't be called champion. If anything, it made us a bit mad. And we're still mad about it, to tell you the truth. And we're still claiming that championship in 1990, those players deserve it."

Have the recent NCAA investigations hurt the SEC's reputation around the country. "Could be. I've heard talk that there is a perception up North that some of our schools are fudging (on the rules). Hopefully, nothing more will happen. I don't know."

Would you want to be SEC commissioner? "No way. I may retire before (Kramer) does."


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