SEC Media Days - Day 3 Notebook East

The final day of SEC Media Days brought historically the most entertaining speaker of week to the podium. It was Steve Spurrier's turn at the podium, and the focus was on how to improve things at South Carolina.

South Carolina

The Gamecocks started hot last year before losing their final five games of the season. Tennessee and Clemson were tough, close loses and Spurrier knows there's a big difference between a 6-6 season and an 8-4 season. Admittedly, Spurrier said South Carolina needs better coaching and better players if there's going to be a contender in Columbia.

"We're getting pumped up there at South Carolina," Spurrier said. "We've got better players than we've had there. We've hopefully got better coaches. Last year was a disappointing ending - 6 6 is mediocrity at its best, and that's where we finished."

In scoring offense, the Gamecocks ranked in the middle of the SEC pack. That's unusual for a Spurrier offense, so the Ol' Ball Coach has shaken things up. He's handed play-calling duties over to his son who he believes, in maybe a biased opinion, is as experienced as any assistant in the league.

"He came down as a GA at Florida in '94, '95, '96," Spurrier said. "We were fortunate to win the SEC all those years, and fortunate enough to win the National Championship in '96. He went to Oklahoma with Bobby Stoops. Second year there they won the National Championship. He's got a lot more National Championship rings than a lot of people."

Quarterback duties will be handed off to a junior Tommy Beacher who only has 25 pass atempts under his belt. But he had a solid spring, and he's got some other attributes that helped him win the starting job.

"He was one of our first guys we signed first year I got there," Spurrier said. "Hadn't played much yet, but he's ready. Tommy has the highest GPA on the team. He can run probably better than the other quarterbacks. He can scramble around a bit. He can make all the throws. We believe he can be a very good SEC quarterback."

Spurrier came two days after Florida, so he missed the Tim Tebow fanfare, but the two will go down together in history as two-thirds of Florida's Heisman Trophy winners. As a former winner, Spurrier has a vote and thinks it will be tough for Tebow to grab Florida's fourth Heisman.

"None of them have ever repeated," he said. "Matt Leinart, those guys that won as juniors, of course, he's the first to win as a sophomore. I don't know. Certainly could, I guess. If he runs for about five touchdowns a game like he did against us, he'll do it."

Kentucky

Last year, the Wildcats had the worst scoring defense and third worst total defense in the SEC. This year, Rich Brooks thinks he's got his best defensive squad during his tenure with eight returning starters, including a duo of talented linebackers in Micah Johnson and Braxton Kelley.

"Our defensive front is outstanding, our secondary, our linebackers," Brooks said. "We have depth, competition and experience."

Kentucky hasn't been able to be a serious contender in the SEC, but they've worked their way into the conversation. Brooks attributes speed as the primary factor that has narrowed the gap between the Wildcats and the Gators, Vols and Dawgs.

"When I got to Kentucky, the first year we had one player that could run under 4.5.," Brooks said. "Last year we had 17. We have the first and second fastest player that I've ever hand timed in Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith. We have more speed. We have more talent. We have players that are capable of playing at Florida and Georgia and Tennessee. I think that we've closed the gap on the talent level, which is the biggest significant difference in Kentucky football now versus four or five years ago."

Kentucky faces Louisville annually, so former Cardinals coach and new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's is no stranger to Brooks. The Cats host the Hogs on October 18.

"He's obviously got a 4 0 record on me, whooped me up the head pretty good," Brooks said. "Had some very good teams at Louisville. He's inheriting a very good program, moving into Arkansas. Houston Nutt had done a great job there over the years."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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