Spurrier pleased with summer workouts
Spurrier has stressed that the work ethic and mindset necessary for winning championships was not present when he arrived at South Carolina, but for the second year in a row Thursday he said he was pleased with the progress the Gamecocks have made in the offseason workouts.
"Our players have had a good summer," he said. "The offensive line, from what we hear, has had close to 100 percent attendance. I think they have really done well in the offseason program. Running backs have been very good; I think our two quarterbacks have been close to perfect."
Attendance in the workouts has not been perfect, but when pressed about who failed to put in the requested effort, Spurrier made some pointed comments.
"There's no sense in coming in here at the end of the summer and criticizing a few lazy guys," Spurrier declared. "They're not going to disrupt our team. Why get mad at some guys that are never going to play? Eventually we may not renew some of those guys that have trouble getting with the program."
Spurrier made a point that some media outlets focus on primarily negative aspects of the program, and emphasized throughout the press conference the positives of his team and staff.
This past spring, Spurrier announced that he would be handing play-calling duties over to his son, Steve, Jr. For one of the few head coaches still calling his own plays and for a coach who has made his reputation on just that, the decision came as a shock. Indeed, virtually every national preview of the 2008 Gamecocks makes mention of the change. It comes as no surprise then that Spurrier has spent much of the summer downplaying the change.
"Let me just get that straight," he said. "I will be responsible for the play-calling. Steve, Jr. has been coaching with me going into 11 years now, and together we will get the play-calling done. The plan right now is for him to sort of put it all together, and we'll get it in there. I will oversee all the play calling; I'm still the offensive coordinator. In fact, I plan to spend more time with the quarterbacks and the offense this year than maybe I have in three years."
Spurrier went on to add that he feels like the hiring of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski will allow him the time to devote to his quarterbacks. He expects to mold his new starter, Tommy Beecher into one of the best passers in the nation, comparing him favorably to one of his championship quarterbacks at Florida, Shane Matthews.
Spurrier named Beecher the starter following spring practice, and reiterated that stance on Thursday.
"Tommy Beecher is going to have a chance to be our quarterback," said Spurrier. "He has not had a chance. He's going into his fourth year now, and we are going to give him every opportunity to be the quarterback. Chris Smelley has, again, had a good summer. He's been in everything from what I hear, but Tommy Beecher is going to get a chance. Barring injury, he should go the distance and whatever it takes, the first game, second game and down the line. This is not, ‘If he goes bad the next guy goes in.' Tommy Beecher right now is getting his shot. He's first-string quarterback, and we are going to do all we can to help him."
Spurrier went on to say that he wants Beecher to secure the job in fall practice, and hold onto it throughout the season. Beecher will get 50-60% of the snaps in practice, with the rest split among the backups. Smelley will be the backup, and if he returns to school, Stephen Garcia will be the third string quarterback. Spurrier deferred to the university and the athletic director any questions about Garcia, saying only that he thinks Garcia is on track to meet all the requirements for him to return to school.
Spurrier also spoke about a number of individual players. These notes follow:
- Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn visited with a specialist in Chicago recently to determine why he has a tendency to cramp up during games. "It's embarrassing to say that as coaches we have not taught him to eat properly yet. They basically checked him out and said, ‘You need to quit eating fried food all the time.' Hopefully Captain will eat the way we ask him to eat."
- Although he still has a tendency to call Patrick DiMarco "Chris," Spurrier continues to be pleased with the fullback. DiMarco is a candidate to see time at tight end this fall, since he is a more capable blocker than either Jared Cook or Weslye Saunders.
- Offensive tackle Gurminder Thind has been placed on a medical hardship scholarship, officially ending his football career. Thind is now working as a student coach in the weight room, where he has drawn praise. "He loves doing that, and he's good in there," said Spurrier.
- Spurrier confirmed that upon completion of a math course, defensive lineman Jarriel King will be admitted to the university.
- Wide receiver Tori Childers, though, has more work to do before being accepted. Spurrier declined to specify why Childers has not yet been accepted.
- Wide receiver Larry Freeman, who struggled last season but appeared to make progress in the spring, could see time on defense this fall. "The defensive coaches have asked about looking at him as one of those outside linebacker positions," Spurrier noted.
- Elliot Williams, an offensive line signee from Georgia, has not been cleared by the clearinghouse. There is an issue with one of the courses Williams thought would count, but has not been cleared. Williams could be forced to enroll in January.
- Linebacker Melvin Ingram could make the transition to fullback. Spurrier said that Ingram has all the physical tools to be a good player, but that he is struggling with the mental aspect. "Some guys, you tell them where to go and they'll go hit somebody as hard as they can," he said. "You give them two different things to think about sometimes, and they don't react as quickly."
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