Spurrier Mid-year Presser
From USC Media Relations:
I thought it was time to have a middle of the season press conference to talk a little about where we are at the break week. It's interesting that we've played seven games. Last year we played 14 games. We hope to play 14 this year. We don't know yet obviously. We're right in the middle of the race for the eastern division. The next four or five weeks will determine that. We feel like we've not played extremely well. We're fortunate to be 6-1. (We've played) a lot of close games. We've had four games within three points and we won three of four. We can count our blessings, especially the last one at Starkville. We didn't' play well on offense. Defensively we played pretty well. Still had some errors. We need to really tighten up. We need to coach better. Our guys make too many assignment errors on offense, defense and special teams. We're not as fundamentally sound as I think we should be. We should be playing better. We'll try to coach hard and let the guys off this weekend. The loss of Marcus (Lattimore) is huge for us. We have to regroup and keep on playing right now Brandon (Wilds) is next in line. He'll get his chance. Kenny (Miles) we hope will play. He had his wrist in a cast. We'll have to see how much he can do. Brandon is about it right now. Eric (Baker) has a sprained ankle, but hopefully next week by the Tennessee game we'll be ready to go. Statistically we're a lot like we were last year. Right now we're fourth in offense and defense. Most people think, well our defense played a lot better than our offense, and they probably are, especially the scoring defense. What happens in the SEC, the defenses are better than the offenses. These other conferences, they can score a lot points and make a bunch of yards, but when these SEC teams go against each other they don't pile up a bunch of yards or points. That happens all around our conference.
Connor (Shaw) has only played two games. He's our quarterback as we all know. I think he can learn from maybe a bad play here and a bad play there. We were watching offensive tape of Mississippi State this morning with the offensive staff, and when he threw the ball out of the ballpark on Alshon on the fade route, we thought maybe the next time he got in that situation (he'd do well), and he threw the beautiful jump pass that ended up going for the touchdown. We've had some injuries at running back, the most I've ever had as a coach. Three running backs had three season-ending knee injures. That's unusual. But that's where we're at. We just have to play better.
I appreciate all our fans hanging with us. We're in position. We can't complain about our record, but we need to play better if we'll have a shot to win the east.
On Marcus Lattimore
Obviously Marcus won the east division for us last year. You see all the big games we won with his carries - Florida, Georgia, Tennessee - but we have to go with what we've got. We're all pulling for Marcus to have a very successful surgery. We know he'll work at rehabilitation as much as any guy in America will. We believe he'll come back stronger than he ever has been. We'll regroup and play with who we've got. That's wall we can do. We've got plenty of players ready.
On if Brandon Wilds can be a 25 carry back
If we can make some yards, certainly we can hand it off to him 20 or 25 times. He's got good size, good quickness and good speed, and he's ready to go. Bruce (Ellington) is ready to go. We'll use him a bit more back there running with it. He's a natural runner with the ball. He could play some tailback, but I think we'll leave him mainly at wide receiver and use him at shotgun.
On Kyle Nunn
Kyle has all kind of problems. He actually went in the hospital last week with a potential blood clot in his leg. He's on blood thinners and he's out for the year. I don't think his back requires surgery but he's definitely out for the year. He's hoping to maybe get a medical hardship and get a sixth year. We'll apply for that and see what happens.
On the team's focus
We're focusing on trying to play the game a lot better and play our assignments a lot better every time out. That's the only thing we really talk about. Next week for Tennessee we'll just talk about trying to beat them. I'm a coach who believes you worry about yourself more than your opponent. The final outcome will take care of itself if we can control our own indivual performance every play through the course of a game.
On if he's ever coached a team that lost a player as valuable as Marcus Lattimore
Probably not as valuable as Marcus has been to us. But again we have to move on. We'll be pulling for Marcus to have a 100 percent recovery and all that. He was at the meeting yesterday. I said, `you didn't have to come to this thing.' He said, `I'm right here,' and sat in the meeting. He's a wonderful team player. We'll all be pulling for him and he'll be puling for us. Hopefully we get some guys to take up the slack.
On if he's worried about the distractions off the field throughout the season
No not really. We're just worried about how we play. The distractions don't block and tackle. The injury to Marcus (Lattimore) last week (was unfortunate), but other than that our guys should just be having fun and playing the game. (There are) a lot of mental errors throughout the entire team that we're going to keep trying to correct.
On if Bruce Ellington can easily transition to running back
It is more involved than just sticking him back there right now. He's not going to be a running back per se. We won't ask him to pick up the blitzing linebackers and such which is what running backs do nowadays. He'll be in there in the wildcat. As we know he can throw it, so we'll have some passes for him; more than last week. We're going to let him go.
On finding ways to win close games
It's very encouraging that some how or another the offense will put together a drive in the fourth quarter against Georgia and last week. It wasn't real pretty. It wasn't all passes. We have won three games being behind in the fourth quarter, including two conference games. That's encouraging. Hopefully that mindset will stay with us. It hasn't happened a lot around here, but it's happening now. At least our guys believe we're never out the game. But we have to play a lot better offensively, defensively, special teams, everything. We need to coach better. I think we're capable of doing that. That's what's encouraging too. We haven't played to our potential yet. This is not a great team by any means. We've a very good team that maybe has a chance to be better, but you have to do it on the field and not talk about potential or whatever.
On the defense
Our defense is playing well but we're giving up 40 percent on third down just like we did last year. That's not very good. We should be better than that. Fortunately we toughened up in the red zone and made some stops. We had some good fortune last week. They missed every long pass and had guys open. I told our team we all need to count our blessings everyday how we won that last game, because it easily could have gone the other way.
On potential backups at RB if Kenny Miles isn't available
Josh Hinch is the next man in line. He's from Knoxville by the way. That's interesting. He may be the backup tailback if Kenny (Miles) can't go and Eric (Baker) isn't ready to play. He was in the spring game. I think he caught four or five passes. He's a nifty fellow. He looks like Nick Jones and Ace Sanders. He's a pretty good little player. If we have to play with him he can do it.
On special teams
We're not quite making anything happen. There's no question about it. It's frustrating to all of us. We actually had a chance to block two punts last week. We got close but just didn't make the play. We're not holding guys up real well. We're not blocking well on kickoff returns.
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