Boyd optimistic about USC's special teams

As the de facto team spokesman, senior running back Cory Boyd is asked to weigh in on almost every topic involving the Gamecocks throughout the course of the football season. On Tuesday, he even became a special teams coach, discussing USC's problems in the kicking game and how they're working to improve in that area.

In his weekly press conference, Steve Spurrier said he was tired of having to overcome special teams mistakes, so he was going to start playing starters on the unit, including running backs Boyd and Mike Davis.

"I'm really disappointed in our special teams," Spurrier said. "We came very close to losing a game because as coaches, we're not smart enough to put our best players on the field to cover punts. Our best players are going to be on special teams, because if we lose a game because somebody runs a kickoff or punt back, at least we can say, 'hey, we had our best guys on the field.' We're pretty stupid as coaches, putting some guys out there that can't do it."

Boyd took Spurrier's edict in stride, saying, "I'm looking forward to it."

"Perhaps it gives us more opportunities to be better in certain spots in our kicking game and our special teams," he continued. "It feels good to be out there and trying to contribute to the team the best we can."

Boyd admitted that since he has not played special teams this year, he has not had much time to pay attention to Carolina's performance in that area. He did take time to defend his teammates.

"I wouldn't say we are underperforming," he said. "It's just that we have to get guys in there that know exactly what the coaches want us to do. It's week two, and people are still getting some kinks out. I think Coach just wants us to go out there and play a little harder than we have been doing... In the coaches' minds we're not doing good. I know we can do better. I know Coach is expecting a lot from the special teams, since we got Coach (Shane) Beamer here. He's supposed to be a special teams specialist."

Aside from the fear of injuries, starters are seldom used on special teams because coaches are cautious about wearing their stars down too much. Boyd says the Gamecocks are too well-conditioned and deep for that to be a concern.

"We had some good workouts this year, getting in shape [and] good conditioning, so the conditioning part really doesn't affect any of us," Boyd assured reporters. "We've got a lot of people out there that want to go out and be a substitute here and there, but we're just going to try to keep fresh legs. We've got a good stable of running backs and linebackers, so we're going to be fresh. We're not worried about the conditioning part."

One has to think that somewhere, Spurrier, who bragged at the beginning of camp that this is the best conditioned team he has ever had, is smiling to hear one of his players echo his emphasis on conditioning.

Senior running back Cory Boyd is one of the clear leaders on the 2007 Gamecock football team.

Turning his focus toward the team that he will be lining up against on Saturday, Boyd smiled when he was told that Spurrier said the Gamecocks are not good enough to overlook S.C. State.

"We're a good team right now," he insisted, suggesting Spurrier was employing a bit of coach-speak when he criticized his team. "Coach has his own opinion, and we have our own opinions. We have a lot to do, and we're going to get in here and look at film and try to improve from what we did last weekend."

That being said, the Bulldogs present a classic trap game for the Gamecocks. Last week Carolina notched perhaps the biggest win in the Steve Spurrier era against the more famous Bulldogs, a win that vaulted the Gamecocks to 17th in the nation in the AP Poll. Next week Carolina travels to Baton Rouge to face the 2nd ranked LSU Tigers, who are a favorite to play for the National Championship. S.C. State is considerably less glamorous than either of the other two, fueling speculation that players will be tempted to look ahead. Boyd promised otherwise.

"We're definitely trying to focus on this week," he said. "We're not focusing on LSU, that's another week ahead. We're going to take this South Carolina State game, and we're going to sit back and see exactly what they have to offer, what they are going to bring to the table, and we're not going to overlook them. We're going to play to the best of our abilities, and we're not going to pay attention to the rankings. You can be in there one time and the next week you're out. We'll let the pollsters do what they have to do and we'll control what we can do on the field."

The game will be the first ever contest between the two schools less than an hour apart. Even though they seem like natural rivals, they have avoided each other through the Bulldogs 100 years and Carolina's 114 years of football. Most of the Gamecock players seem unaware of the significance, or perhaps uninterested in the history involved. However, Boyd is not one of them.

"It definitely matters to me," he said. "It sets the stage for years to come. I wish in previous years that we had played them, to make another rivalry. We're looking forward to playing them. Coach always talks about doing things for the first time, and he's making history with this game."

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