Spurrier Welcomes Seven New Gamecocks

Classes began at the University of South Carolina on Tuesday, and while it may not seem like that way, it was a big day for Gamecock football as well, as seven new recruits are on campus and officially Gamecocks.

Two of the incoming freshmen are still awaiting clearance to enroll in classes, Clifton Geathers and Jonathan Williams. However, Spurrier reports that both are on campus and the delay is merely procedural. "They're here. They're in the dorms. For some reason, we're not supposed to talk about them. A piece of the transcript or a test score has not arrived, but we are confident they are going to be in school in the next day or so." Spurrier is prohibited from making any further comments on the two until they are officially enrolled in class.

Spurrier did talk briefly about the other five newcomers. Like the rest of Gamecock Nation, he seemed most excited about quarterback Stephen Garcia, which is not surprising considering Spurrier's reputation as a quarterback guru.

"What I like is he can run, he can move around, and he's an excellent passer also. He set a whole bunch of records down there. I think what Stephen gives us is a good passer who can also run. He's got a lot to learn [and] a long way to go. I've told him that, but he is a competitive guy who loves to play. If he gets tackled four of five times in the spring by his ponytail, then we might convince him to cut it. Other than that, that's part of his M.O."

Spurrier also spoke glowingly about defensive lineman Travian Robertson. "[He] graduated early from high school, and wanted to come on down, so we're excited that Travian is here in school and ready to get through spring practice and go from there."

Both Garcia and Robertson graduated from high school early in order to enroll at South Carolina in time for spring practice. While Spurrier is pleased that they have shown such commitment, he is not sure if they really have an advantage over those who enroll in the summer.

"It just depends on the individual," he said. "Obviously, if Stephen plays next year, it's got to help him. We'll just wait and see. Travian, a defensive lineman, we just have to see how he compares with our other defensive players and how he performs during the scrimmages and in practice."

Spurrier emphasized that the decision to enroll early depends on the player, and that a major factor in the decision is whether the player is physically ready to compete at an SEC level. "A lot of kids like to graduate early and take off. Some kids like to stay and finish their high school career. It's an individual choice. I don't advocate it one way or the other. We leave it up to the player and what they want to do. It just depends on how big and strong they are when they come in. If they are ready to play, it's probably a good idea to come in. If they are not ready to play right away, which most of them aren't, it doesn't help that much."

While many Gamecock fans are debating whether Garcia will be the starting quarterback by game 5 or game 6, Spurrier cautioned that even by enrolling early, Garcia is no guarantee to see playing time this year.

"[He] could be red-shirted. We tell [recruits] to come ready to play and compete, but if you're not ready and you're not going to play a lot, we want to redshirt you.- We don't want to waste a year. We've been able to red-shirt a lot of our players the last couple of years. That should prove beneficial two or three years from now."

In addition to the two early entrants, Spurrier has brought in three players who have taken a more delayed path to Carolina. The Gamecocks recruited defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye a year ago, but he committed to Virginia Tech. Then, as Spurrier said, "Fortunately he didn't qualify, and after half a year at Hargrave [Military Academy, a prep school] he decided he wanted to come where his teammate Carlos Thomas plays and wanted to come to South Carolina. I've gotten players like this in the past. The lesson in life is don't get mad at them because they go somewhere else. You still may get them. We try not to get mad at them if they go somewhere else."

Spurrier spoke highly about Ajiboye's talents, saying, "I really like Ladi. He makes a lot of tackles for a defensive tackle. He is sort of a slippery, elusive defensive lineman that can knife around and make some things happen. He wanted to come here and we're excited that he's with us now."

Offensive lineman Ryan Broadhead was also recruited last year. When the Gamecocks oversigned their class, Broadhead was asked to gray-shirt and enroll in January. Spurrier seemed proud of the way Broadhead had worked out on his own while away from football.

"I think he worked out lifting and running for about four or five months. He really looks good and hopefully he's going to be able to come in here and help us either this year or next year as an offensive lineman. Ryan looks good physically and we'll find out what kind of ballplayer he's going to be when spring practice starts."

Wide receiver Larry Freeman also had to wait to enroll, having attended Pearl River Junior College in Mississippi. "We think he's got a chance to be an excellent receiver," Spurrier said. "We'll put him out there with all the rest of our guys this spring, and see how it turns out."

In addition to talking about the newcomers, Spurrier talked about his goals for the team going into winter workouts and emphasized some new academics rules.

"We've got a lot of guys back from last year's team," Spurrier said. "Sidney [Rice] leaving just opens it up for some of these receivers coming in. We've got several committed, and maybe we'll have one or so more before it's all over with. We're looking forward to winter conditioning, which starts next week. Lifting with Coach Mark Smith starts Wednesday."

When asked if there would be any changes to how the Gamecocks approached winter workouts this year, Spurrier indicated there would be changes: more tennis balls. NCAA rules state teams may not practice with a football during the off season, but other balls, such as tennis balls and softballs, are allowed.

"Some of our guys can't see the ball real well," Spurrier explained. "I think we need some drills where you catch the ball. We do all this running and lifting and all that, how about ball? Just get a tennis ball out there and run up and down the field and see if you can run and catch…and see if you can find it. When the ball is snapped, everybody is watching the ball, and yet you do all this training in the off-season and never use a ball."

The area that earned the most attention from Spurrier was the classroom. Spurrier was not pleased with his team's class attendance or academic performance, so he has implemented some new rules.

"We had some guys that didn't perform near as well as they should have," Spurrier said. "We're not real proud of what the football team did academically, although there were only about 10-12 that I just had a little extra meeting with. That's too many. We need 99% of our guys in good shape academically, instead of 85-90%."

Toward that end, Spurrier has decided to no longer use the university's attendance policy. He will replace it with what he calls the "Carolina Football Team Policy"

"We have some new little policies, new little guidelines, to ensure our players go to class that I really believe will be helpful," he explained. "I don't want to give the football rules completely out, but we have our own attendance policy. The university one didn't work for us. There's too much leeway; you can miss three or four here, three or four there, and still be okay. That doesn't work for our football players. They need to go to every class. They need to go all the time, not most of the time, just like they need to go to every practice, and every weightlifting [session]. They need to go all the time, not most of the time. If you don't go, we run stadium steps. If it gets out of control like that, maybe we let them transfer and go play somewhere else. We need to tighten up around here. We're not near where we need to be a good team yet. We're just trying to get more discipline in everything we do, and it should carry over to the way we play."


- Spurrier said that both Taylor Rank and Dakota Walker, who were sent home from the Liberty Bowl for a violation of team rules, are still with the team. "According to university policy, they have not been booted out yet," he said.

- Dustin Lindsey, who lost his academic eligibility last year, has remained in school and has practiced with the team as a walk-on. If he meets certain grade requirements this semester, he could be reinstated as a scholarship player in the fall.

- In what he almost certainly hopes will be his final comments on the matter, Spurrier said he has no ill-will towards Sidney Rice. Rice entered the NFL Draft after earlier saying he would certainly come back. "I really thought he would be better off staying another year. I thought he had the chance to be the first receiver taken next year. That's a huge difference in money for him, but he chose to go now. That's his decision. I never try to beg anyone to stay. As a coach you'd feel terrible if he came back and got hurt."

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