BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - There were three prevalent threads of questions Rebel QB Micheal Spurlock had to repeatedly answer during his session Wednesday at SEC Media Days.
"What really happened in Coach Ed Orgeron's first team meeting? Did he break anything? Did he challenge anyone to a fight? Did he rip off his shirt?"
"What happened to you last year and can you overcome it this year?"
"Do you believe you are an SEC quarterback?"
Spurlock handled them all like a pro.
Everyone who pays attention to Ole Miss football saw what happened in 2004. After Spurlock put up a good spring and summer, the heir apparent to Rebel legend Eli Manning, well, fell on his face in his first two starts and was replaced as the QB in the third game of the year. Speculation as to why he couldn't get the job done ran rampant, with every imagineable theory running its course on talk radio and internet message boards.
Spurlock's explanation of what went wrong is somewhat vague and general and you can tell it's still a subject that is painful for him to discuss.
"I think there were a lot of factors. I put too much pressure on myself to replace Eli. You can never replace Eli or the Manning legacy. That will live forever," he explained. "I'm not chasing that now.
"It was a dream - to be the Ole Miss QB - that turned into my worst nightmare, but as painful as it was, I have tried to turn the experience into a positive. I know I became a man due to it. There was nobody there to save me but myself. I was devastated, but I lived through it and grew as a person. I have put it behind me now, but it took me time and I had to mature in the process. I look at it this way - probably nothing I will have to do in my immediate future will be that hard and I survived it. It was crushing, but I finally asked myself a couple of questions - how are you going to bounce back? Are you going to be a man or act like a baby? I'm proud to say I rebounded and started moving forward."
2004 also taught Micheal not to take anything for granted. Even though he came out of last spring taking the most snaps with the number one offense, his mindset is that the QB job is "wide open" as August approaches.
"I was a little ahead at the end of spring, but I know the job is not mine to lose - it's everyone's to win. All the QBs will be fighting as hard as we can to win the starting job every day. That will make us all better," he continued. "My approach is that none of us has an edge. We all have to go out and compete every day and every day will be a proving ground. None of us will be able to rest on what we did yesterday, so to speak. It will all be about today and the next day."
Michael got early encouragement from Coach O, which he said relieved his tension immediately.
"When he first got to Ole Miss, he told me the past is the past and it didn't matter. He told me every player was starting from scratch," Spurlock noted. "I always thought I'd get another chance at quarterback, but you never really know. With Coach O, he said I would and he meant it. I had a clean slate in spring training. I worked hard, relaxed and gained my confidence back in spring."
Spurlock's assessment of what he has to do in August is direct and to the point.
"My goals and expectations are to prove I can be a winning SEC quarterback. I want to prove I can lead this team to wins and gain the confidence of the coaches and my teammates that I'm the guy," he said. "All I have to do is slow down my game some, like I did in spring, and I'll be fine."
Spurlock likes the offense that is being installed by Orgeron and Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone.
"It's wide open. You can do so much out of it and you never know who's going to end up with the ball," he stated. "We will get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. I see no negatives with this offense. I think it will play to everyone's strengths once the coaches make final decisions on what fits best with the personnel we have. My strength is my mobility, for instance. If I end up as the quarterback, that will be a weapon the coaches will use. And I believe that applies to everyone at the skill positions - we will play to everyone's strengths.
"One of the main focuses of August will be installing things the coaches believe will fit our talents and deleting things that don't. They will fit the offense to our personnel."
Micheal's thoughts on the upcoming season are positive, but with an asterisk, of sorts.
"I think the season boils down to two things. How hungry are we? I know the talent is here to be successful and it's up to us how far we take this team," said Spurlock. "Also, I think it's very important to get off to a good start, especially for the young guys. The way things went last year, we need early momentum and to gain some early confidence so we can put 2004 completely and permanently behind us.
"If we are hungry and if we perform early, there's no telling what we can accomplish. The sky is the limit."
Spurlock smiled each time the subject of Coach O's first team meeting came up.
"The internet account of the first team meeting Coach O had was all a bunch of junk," he said repeatedly. "Coach O takes intensity to another level, there is no doubt about that. He was fired up and you could see in his eyes he meant business. We hung on every word and were ready to play football right then and there, but there was no throwing things or ripping off shirts or breaking things or challenging anyone to a fight. Was it exciting? Absolutely. Did it fire us up? For sure. But there was nothing like the crazy account that spread about it.
"Coach O is very fired up. His intensity level is higher than anyone I've ever see. But he looks you in the eye when he talks to you and you know he means what he says. There's no beating around the bush with him. There is nothing false about him. He is what he is - fired up, straight forward and all business. We like it that way."
Will Micheal Spurlock be the starting QB against Memphis in five weeks? Even he doesn't know, but he's ready for the challenge of trying to be.
"I'm not chasing anyone this year," he closed. "I'm just going to be the best Micheal Spurlock I can be. We'll see if that is good enough."
Spurlock meets throng of press in Birmingham
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