Notebook: Carolina still looking to improve

Steve Spurrier held his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. Spurrier hopes South Carolina is ready to break through and play to their capabilities. He also discussed the university receiving a "Notice of Allegations" from the NCAA and discusses this week's game against Vanderbilt.

Entering the 2011 season the South Carolina football team was hyped as the best team in school history. Who could argue against it? Returning All-Americans Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore on offense and Stephon Gilmore on the defensive side, fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia at quarterback, an experienced offensive line, and one of the best defensive lines in the country that included freshman phenom Jadeveon Clowney.

Head coach Steve Spurrier was very clear throughout the summer and into fall camp. The team had potential to be great, but was not a great team yet. Time and time again Spurrier said it, and time and time again Gamecock fans laughed it off as ‘coach-talk.'

Spurrier knew what he was talking about.

Three weeks into the season the tenth-ranked Gamecocks are 3-0 and cleared what many said would be its toughest competitor in the SEC East with a win at Georgia, but Carolina has hardly looked good and have been anything but impressive through the first 12 quarters of the season.

"It is what it is," Spurrier said in his patented line during Tuesday's press conference. "We are what we are. We're trying to get better."

Carolina trailed in all three of its game this season, including two fourth quarter deficits. Isaiah Crowell's fourth quarter touchdown gave Georgia a 35-31 lead before the Gamecocks scored two quick touchdowns to take a 45-42 decision. Last week Carolina trailed Navy 21-17 entering the fourth quarter before Marcus Lattimore's touchdown led to the 24-21 win.

"We've played similarly every game," Spurrier said. "We keep thinking it's all going to come together. It hasn't quite yet but we're 3-0, so that's a good sign. We've won a couple of games behind in the fourth quarter two weeks in a row. I don't know if that's ever happened around here, has it? We've done some good things. It's the first time in my coaching career that I've won back-to-back three-point games ever in 26 years as a head coach, so I'm sort of happy about that. It's a lot more fun winning those three-pointers than losing them. Who knows whether this one will be a three-pointer or not."

South Carolina has shown signs of being the team everyone expects them to be. After spotting East Carolina a 17-0 lead and had four uncharacteristic turnovers in the first half, the Gamecocks reeled off 42 second-half points to pull away to the win. The following week in Athens, the Carolina defense held the Dawgs to field goals early in the game while the offense sputtered, and the Gamecocks scored 14 points in the final minutes for the win. In last week's win, the offense scored on half of its possessions and the defense held up late to preserve the win. Still, it's the consistency through four quarters that Carolina has lacked.

"If we're going to be competitive this year we need to improve," Spurrier said. "We need to improve in about every facet. Hopefully we will this week. We think we can turn it around and be the defense, be the offense, that we thought we could be."

It starts Saturday when Carolina hosts 3-0 Vanderbilt in its second conference game.

"We're looking forward to the game, seeing if we can play a little better this year," Spurrier said. "See if we can throw the ball around better, see if we can stop people a little more, and see if we can become the team we were advertised to be in the preseason. We haven't quite done it yet but we have hopes and beliefs that we can start playing better football."

NCAA Letter

South Carolina received a "Notice of Allegations" from the NCAA Monday afternoon from issues surrounding the 2010 Whitney Hotel problems and the more recent Student-Athlete Mentoring (S.A.M.) Foundation. After not speaking following Monday's practice, the first question in Tuesday's press conference was obvious.

"The three allegations, which were written up, involved The Whitney Hotel," Spurrier said. "(It) Involved what it said and involved the booster involvement. They did mention the name of one of our coaches, G.A. Mangus, not that he had broken any rules but he had a prior relationship with the guys up there in the Philly, New Jersey area, so that's why his name was mentioned."

The notice states that the NCAA found that 12 football players were living in the Whitney Hotel from October 2009 until prior to the 2010 season at a reduced rate on deferment plans totalling $47,000. The most recent violation involved the S.A.M. Foundation, co-founded by Carolina graduates Steve Gordan and Kevin Lahn, and its involvement with Carolina freshman Damiere Byrd. The NCAA found that inducements and benefits in that case totaled over $8,000. That is where Mangus was listed due to a prior relationship.

Compliance directer Jennifer Stiles, University President Harris Pastides, athletic director Eric Hyman,Mangus, Curtis Frye, Mike Boynton, and Coach Spurrier are all asked to attend the meeting that will take place in mid-February. Boynton and Frye are asked to attend due to the S.A.M Foundation allegations.

It won't be the first time Spurrier has appeared before the NCAA committee. In 1990, Spurrier appeared on a violation of a child support payment that the NCAA alleged Florida coach Galen Hall paid for player Jarvis Williams. It did not involve Spurrier as does this instance.

"I'm asked to go to the infraction hearing because I'm the head coach," Spurrier said. "That's how it works sometimes. I hope we're not in serious trouble. I don't think we're going to be. You work these things out and do what they say. That's what our university is doing. Hopefully things will work out, and so forth. Unfortunately, it happened and we'll try to handle it the very best we can.

"I don't think it's embarrassing to get a letter. I think some stuff can happen."

Spurrier admits to making one violation while at Carolina. During a visit to Sumter High School to visit offensive lineman Kyle Nunn. Spurrier asked if Nunn was playing on the basketball team that year and Nunn said he was and that they had a game that night. Spurrier immediately left and reported that he violated the NCAA secondary violation of contacting a player on the day of a game. Spurrier is proud of his clean record with the NCAA

"Has my name been mentioned doing anything wrong? Huh? Has it?," Spurrier said. "My name's not on that sheet. I follow the rules as closely as I possibly can and if I ever break one, I turn myself in."


Vanderbilt enters Saturday's game undefeated on the season and brings in a defense that leads the nation in interceptions, tied for second in the nation in total turnovers, and tied for fifth in turnover ratio.

"Vandy comes in probably as upbeat and ready to play as they've ever been since I've been here for seven years," Spurrier said. "They're' 3-0, just like us. Statistically, defensively, they're one of the best in the conference in most every category. I think they lead the nation in interceptions. They have 10 interceptions, three for touchdowns. Their defense has played extremely well."

Vanderbilt has only given up an average of 250 yards per game and only 87 yards per game on the ground. The defense has scored as many touchdowns as it has given up.

"They return eight starters from last year, I read, and of course we struggled with them down there last year at Vandy," Spurrier said. "They play the coverages most teams play; A little man-to-man, a little zone, disguised very well. Zone blitz and all that. They just play them well. You look at them on tape and see the guys are in position. They play fundamentally sound. That's why they're playing well right now. If we're going to execute… (if) we're going to throw the ball, we've got to go out there and let it go. Anyway, it will be a good challenge for us. No question about it. They're coming in with a lot of confidence and a lot of fire. We'll see if we can match it."

One year later

A year ago today South Carolina was coming off a 38-19 win over Furman and sat 3-0 on the season. The team took the field Monday night to begin preparing for its first road game of the season, a trip to face eventual-National Champion Auburn. Practice was winding down and things suddenly changed.


As the team was winding down practice, word of the death of former Carolina receiver Kenny McKinley began to spread around the practice field. Members of the media began to receive texts and emails of the news just as they were walking onto the field to begin post-practice interviews. Spurrier drove over in his golf cart, something he rarely does during practice week, to deliver the news.

"I guess it's true," a visibly shaken Spurrier said that Monday night. "It's been reported Kenny McKinley is dead. I don't understand if it happened the way they say."

McKinley, who always had that heart-warming smile, had taken his own life at his Denver home. As the days progressed news of depression over injuries and gambling debts began to surface. Still it was so difficult to understand and still is even today.

"It was difficult," Spurrier said Tuesday. "We handled all that last year. After you handle it I think it's time to move on. We still talk about him every now and then. When we're running slants I tell the guys here's how Kenny McKinley ran it and I don't remember him ever being covered. He got open every time because he had that little quick step that got him open. We're trying to to teach our guys how to run that also. We remember Kenny. He was an outstanding player here, no question."

Looking back:

VIDEO: Spurrier reacts to tragic news
Kenny McKinley found dead

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