Spurrier Responds To Rumor Mill

The Gamecocks, fresh off Saturday's 52-7 victory over Middle Tennessee State, went through a spirited and productive workout in focused preparation for this weekend's showdown against in-state rival Clemson. However, the team has had a few distractions recently, as Coach Steve Spurrier has been the focus of no fewer than three rumors spreading around the college football world.

Gamecocks Begin Preparations for Clemson

Like last week, Spurrier ended Monday's practice about 15 minutes early. The team seemed to respond well last week, and Spurrier is hoping for a repeat performance. He cautioned that Middle Tennessee does not present the same challenge that Clemson does. "It sounded like we clobbered Middle Tennessee by the score, but it was a tough game," Spurrier said. They knocked us on our fannies many times. We didn't play nearly as well as the score indicated. Everything just happened to work out for a change."

Blake Mitchell exemplified exactly what his coach talked about. Mitchell, who was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, threw for a career high 388 yards and four touchdowns, but admitted he missed several throws. Spurrier agreed, saying, "He played pretty well. He had a few bad plays too, though." Mitchell will need to eliminate those mistakes to be successful against better teams, according to Spurrier. "He's still got to play better, because in the big games, one bad play could make you a loser."

Spurrier's point was on display in the game against Clemson last year. The Gamecocks had five possessions in the red zone, but managed only three field goals and two turnovers. Those two turnovers may have cost Carolina the game. "It was a big key last year in the Clemson game" said Spurrier. However, he thinks the Gamecocks have improved in the red zone. "We were a little bit better [last week]. We had a spell there; a few games where we messed up. We can run the ball a little better. We ran it in from five yards out against the guys last week. We still haven't done all that super."

The Gamecocks came out of the game against MTSU relatively healthy. Defensive end Ryan Brown suffered a sprained ankle, and missed practice on Monday, but Spurrier expects him to practice on Tuesday. Wide receiver Kenny McKinley suffered a mild concussion against the Blue Raiders, but returned to practice Monday night. Spurrier was dumbfounded at the hits McKinley took. "He just got knocked woozy. He went back in on the punt return, and I'll be dadgummed, we open the gates and the guy clobbered him catching the punt. That's sad; we had two guys that didn't even touch a guy."

Turning an eye toward Clemson, Spurrier addressed the concerns some fans have that he does not place enough emphasis on the annual rivalry game. Spurrier said he is not deemphasizing the game, "just stressing the importance of conference games. This is our biggest rival. It's the biggest game of the year. This could make a good year for us if we could find a way to beat those guys."

Before the game last year, the two teams made an attempt to erase the memory of the ugly brawl that marred Lou Holtz's final game. The players met at midfield to shake hands in a show of sportsmanship. However, this year there are no plans to repeat the gesture. "We don't need to do it this year," Spurrier said. "We're going over there to play football. We don't have to worry about that fighting crap; not on our side, that's for sure, and I don't think on their side. The tension that led to the brawl may have started when several Gamecocks waited at the bottom of the hill when Clemson ran down onto the field. Spurrier said none of his players will be anywhere near the hill this year. "If they want to do cartwheels coming down the hill, that's fine with me. We'll be on the other end. We may not even be on the field when it happens.

Spurrier Responds To Internet Rumors

On Sunday, reports surfaced linking Spurrier with the head coaching position for the Miami Hurricanes. Though the job is currently held by Larry Coker, he is expected to be fired at the end of the season. One report claimed that Miami would target Spurrier. Another report claimed that the interest was mutual and that Spurrier is likely to take the job. Spurrier denied the reports on his Sunday teleconference, but was unable to squelch the rumors.

On Monday, another rumor began making the rounds. This time, Spurrier is said to be taking over the job at Alabama. Like Miami, Alabama currently has a head coach, Mike Shula. However, Shula is not likely to be fired, since he just signed an extension last year. After practice, all Spurrier could do was laugh about the rumors. "Miami yesterday, Alabama today. It's always flattering that somebody would throw the South Carolina coach's name out there. Obviously, I'm very, very happy here, and we're going to try to win us an SEC [Championship]. That's the goal. That's my mission."

Spurrier was not as amused by the report on a Clemson website that accused Carolina of committing several recruiting violations. Spurrier initially feigned ignorance of the allegations, saying, "What report? What are you talking about?" He eventually acquiesced and addressed the report.

"I didn't read it, but somebody told me that some report had Coach Nix making an impermissible phone call," Spurrier said. "He assured me he has not made any. If we did, we would certainly turn ourselves in. That report might have been like me going to Miami next year report. They had a lot of similarities."

While it appears to many Gamecock fans the allegations are part of an effort by Clemson to disgrace Carolina, Spurrier refuses to point any fingers. When asked who he thought was behind the report, he said "I don't know. Anybody can put anything on there [the internet], and why people believe it is beyond me. Hopefully we didn't have any, but if we did, we should turn ourselves in."

Spurrier also addressed the allegations of improper contact involving a booster, Kevin Milligan. "Yeah I know about him," Spurrier said. "He's a longtime friend of the family up there. As far as I know, he lived there his whole life. They call that a pre-existing relationship. I know him well. I played golf with him."

As he was leaving, a reporter asked Spurrier if having to deal with these type of question annoyed him. Spurrier shrugged and said, "It doesn't bother me. My second year at Florida, everybody started [pointing fingers]. They get mad. Some people think we've got something going here. We may be building a football program that's going to irritate some people. We got some commitments from kids that some people don't want (us to get). Whatever they can find negative to say, they're going to do it. Our fans just need to understand that that's the way life is. They don't want to see us have something good going."

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