Spurrier: The Mindset of Champions

Nick Saban was appointed the rock star of the SEC Media Days, but USC's Steve Spurrier was again the most quotable. His quote that is being taken most seriously – he believes the Gamecocks are ready to challenge for the SEC championship. Read inside to find out how Spurrier and the SEC are viewing the Gamecocks' chances in 2008.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said at this week's SEC Media days that, "We've raised our goals this year. We're going to try to win the conference. We feel like we've really increased our talent level at South Carolina. We've added a lot of players that we think are at a pretty close level with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Obviously you need to be at their level to win the conference. We feel like our talent level is good enough now we should say, 'Hey, let's go try to win our conference championship.' That's going to be our mindset going into the season. We're looking forward to it."

The national media has questioned Spurrier's chances for success since he took on the challenge at South Carolina. But like the hero in Hollywood's "The Matrix," there are some who are beginning to believe.

The NY Times: "It is approaching time for Steve Spurrier to deliver on this notion of being an evil genius, a label he earned while coaching the University of Florida. Is Spurrier gambling with his legacy, or is he about to add to its luster with success at a place where few thought he could succeed?"

The Shreveport Times: "Coach Steve Spurrier, in his third season, thinks he has a good enough team to win the SEC East, and he usually tells the truth and knows what he's talking about."

Palm Beach Post: "While Louisiana State is a clear favorite to win the SEC West, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia are all considered to have a legitimate shot of winning the East."

Birmingham News: "With a couple of sentences, Steve Spurrier officially raised the stakes - and the blood pressure of his SEC coaching brethren. He announced that the Gamecocks are no longer content "to win more games than we lose." "We've raised our goals this year, we're going to try to win the conference."

"As a coach, I think you have to realistically set your goals." Spurrier said. "I think you have to look at your team, your talent level, give them something they can achieve. We tried to do that the first two years and have a go at it. We didn't achieve all of our goals, but we hit quite a few here and there."

Spurrier spoke of three things that he felt had brought his team to the point of competing for a championship: a level of talent that is close to that of Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee; a team that understands what it takes to win a championship, and a team that believes it can win.

He said, "Going into our third year at South Carolina, we believe our talent level has improved enough that we can realistically tell our players, we got a chance, fellas. We're going to set a goal to do it. I know we're not going to be picked and we shouldn't be picked, but we need to come to the ballpark of these other teams and believe we're just as good. I know it will be a huge assignment, but I believe our players, our team, we need to come to the ballpark feeling like we're just as good as Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and that we can play with those guys to see what happens."

Spurrier gave a lot of credit to USC fans when talking about the excellent incoming class: "Our fans are super. I really believe the reason we had such a big recruiting class, even though we lost those close games at home to Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn, the noise level was so great that recruits out there could see, hey, South Carolina is as big a big time atmosphere as all of these other SEC schools. I can go there and maybe play a little quicker. Looks like they need a few more ball players, and maybe be on the first SEC championship team ever. So that's I think really helped our recruiting."

Running back Cory Boyd on Spurrier's goal to win his first SEC Championship at South Carolina: "It's definitely exciting. He's (Spurrier) always big on trying to do things for the first time and trying to have bigger goals. You can't really win something unless you really install it in your mind, and I think that's what he's trying to do with us. "I've been here for five years, and I have to say hands down, this has been the best summer workout that I've ever been around. We don't have anyone second guessing the coaches or the program, and everybody is committed to greatness."

Spurrier said, "What we need to do is understand that the object of a football season is to try to win your conference championship. I really believe that. I'm really sort of a coach that tries to win a championship, which in our situation is the conference. What we can control as coaches is trying to win our conference championship, all of us. So that's where we are right here."

Spurrier spoke of other components in place necessary to contend for championships: commitment and senior leadership. "We have noticed our offseason (weightlifting) program this year has been much better attended. The players we were really counting on to be there pretty much have done much better than the first two years. So our commitment level from what we understand is much improved."

Lastly, Spurrier talked about the need to win close games in order to compete for the SEC championship: "Obviously Florida played very well when the games were close. They had a bunch of close ones. That's pretty much how you win conference championships nowadays. But to win a championship nowadays probably in our conference, the ability to win a close one is crucial.

Boyd also spoke of the need to win close games: "Hopefully, it will pay off when late November comes and we're in the middle of the battle. Then, everyone can sit back and think of all the things we did in two-a-days and summer workouts when we had to get up at 5:30 in the morning. Hopefully it will pay off this time, and the ball will bounce our way in some of the games we came close to last year."

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