Spurrier previews home opener against FAU

With the South Carolina football team coming off a heartbreaking loss this past Saturday to Georgia, Coach Steve Spurrier sat down with the media Tuesday at his weekly news conference and shared his thoughts about where he thinks his team is at two games into the season, what adjustments need to be made, and the opportunities that are out there for this Gamecock football team to seize.

Coach Steve Spurrier's Opening Statement:

"Okay, we're getting ready for Florida Atlantic, a team we played a couple of years ago. They have improved tremendously. I think the last two years they have been to a bowl game and had winning seasons. They won the Motor City Bowl I think last year, beating Central Michigan . So they are a quality team. A lot of good athletes from the South Florida area. I think most of their players are from down that way. They are a very good, solid team.

We've got to really play well if we hope to have a chance to beat these guys. Their quarterback, Rusty Smith, has thrown for a lot of yards. He's a really good player that a lot of people think will be an NFL draft pick. So, we're regrouping a bit.

We are looking forward to our first home game. I know our fans will be here screaming and yelling. Again, the first home game brings a little extra excitement. Our players are looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd here Saturday night at 7 o'clock. So that's where we are.

We've got a couple of new starters. (Defensive tackle) Nate Pepper was hurt in the game, he sprained his ankle fairly severely. Hopefully he'll be back in two to three weeks, but he's out for a while and Melvin Ingram will get his first start as a Gamecock. Also, I think Heath Batchelor is going to start at left guard this game. So that's about it for I think the new starters.

Other than that, we'll try to play a whole lot better than we played the last time we performed last Saturday night. But again, we're looking forward to playing at home in front of our crowd here Saturday night."

Question: Coach, the fact you were down by 15 at one point in the second half and fought your way back, is that indicative of a new attitude on this football team?

Answer: "You know, that game is history, the one last week. A lot of guys played well, a lot of guys did not play very well. But again, we are trying to get it behind us. That's all we can do.

Now, we lost as a team. We were a play short, wherever it was. It didn't work out. Again, it's history. We're trying to correct a lot of mistakes we had in that game, a lot mistakes in the first game. I still really believe we've got a good team here. We haven't put it all together yet, and we're trying to."

Question: Coach, through the first two games you have two turnovers, last year you had seven turnovers through the first two games. In your opinion, is that a sign of progress being made by the offense?

Answer: "Yeah, I think our taking care of the ball has improved. The quarterbacks have not tossed it; Stephen hasn't tossed it into a crowd as much as maybe our guys did in the past. Running backs are holding onto the ball, and doing a good job. So, we've got to continue that. There are a lot of areas we need to get better. Hopefully we'll show some improvement this week in our offense, our defense, and our special teams play. We've got a lot of room for improvement as they say."

Question: One of the things I keep hearing the players talk about is this is a "New Carolina" and that they are going to stay in the games and not give up anymore. Do you see a lot of that from the players just in practice and being around them?

Answer: "Certainly our kickoff coverage wasn't any kind of a new attitude around here the last game or so. But, we got better maybe in the second half of it. But anyway, whatever happened again is history. Again, we hope in the future to win those close games. We hope to make a play at the end somehow to win the game. That's what we are trying to do. We haven't quite done it yet, but hopefully that will happen real soon."

Question: Yhe running game of course was the big offseason emphasis. Have you seen any signs that it looks like it's kind of ready to break out?

Answer: "We're going to keep working on the running game. We didn't go very far the other night. I think Stephen was our leading rusher. We're going to keep plugging away at it, and see what happens here down the road. We still need to block a little bit better at times. The running backs, they could pick their holes a little bit better whatever, but we're continually working on it."

Question: Is Heath Batchelor a guy who can help? Is that one of his strengths, run blocking?

Answer: "Hopefully. Hopefully, run blocking, pass blocking, blocking. Blocking is our biggest, one of our biggest problems around here. It's called blocking. But we're working on it. Hopefully, we'll get it going a lot better here. Our backs need to help a little more at times also maybe."

Question: Coach, are you pleased with the progression of Jarvis Giles? Do you see him getting more carries as the season progresses?

Answer: "Jarvis has played probably a little bit like a freshman. He's done some good things here and there, and other times... he's done okay. He's done okay. But, Kenny Miles deserves a chance now to play. Brian Maddox and Jarvis had several carries and played a bit, and Brian's been solid in there, no question about that. He's played well. But, Kenny Miles hasn't played yet, so we're going to give him a chance. We hope to get Alshon Jeffery out there a little more and throw the ball to him some. We're still trying to find out who our best players are. Simple as that, and you have to play games to find out. You can't always go by practice. Bryce Sherman, we've got to get him out there a little bit more too. He's an exciting runner. We're trying to give them all a chance and trying to win the game at the same time. We're trying to find out who our best players are on offense, defense, and special teams. Obviously we didn't have all of our best ones out there maybe covering kickoffs the other night. I think we're going to put Cliff Matthews back on kickoff cover. We've got to get him out there. He'll make the tackle somehow or run the guy down somehow. So look for Cliff to get back on kickoff cover this week."

Question: Statistics aside for Garcia the other night, how close was his performance? Was it close at all to being the type of quarterback performance that you need to see regularly in your offense?

Answer: "Stephen's improving. He had a lot of good plays the other night, and lot of not so good plays. In the final analysis of the whole thing, we weren't good enough as a team. It was as simple as that. But, he is improving. Hopefully, he'll show a lot of improvement this week. He's got potential. One thing I will say, he can run out of there which we need to do. Our protection is not quite as great as we'd hoped against the good teams, and probably won't be all that great against all the teams as you guys have seen. So we need a mobile quarterback. He can bounce out of there, and again hopefully we'll start making some big plays when he breaks the pocket and so forth."

Question: Bryce Sherman told us last night after practice that he is practicing a little bit at slot receiver. What's the balance of him playing running back and slot receiver?

Answer: "He wasn't supposed to be telling you that. See, I've got to take him off the list. We're trying to surprise people, and now Florida Atlantic knows he's going to be a slot receiver. He's an exciting runner, and we're just trying to figure some ways to get his hands on the ball wherever we can. Simple as that."

Question: How well do you know Coach Schnellenberger?

Answer: "I know him a little bit. We don't call each other. We don't have each other's cell phone numbers if that is what you mean. I say hello to him when I see him. I think the last time I saw him was the game up here three years ago. I remember that was a night Syvelle (Newton) and Sidney (Rice) really played well. I have great respect for him. To have been in our profession as long as he has, you certainly are doing things the right way. So give him credit for building that program down there. I think they've been playing since 2001. They've come a long way. I think two years ago they were the only team in Florida to win a bowl game. Did y'all know that? That says a lot about how far they have come. We're going to have our hands full, and we know that. But again we're trying to play better than we did the last time out."

Question: Steve, the process of identifying your best players and playmakers, how long does that usually take at the beginning of the season?

Answer: "Well, you try to get them all in there, and then obviously we have two close games. Four point games, both of them. All the coaches have a tendency to stick with guys who are playing pretty decent, taking care of the ball, and what have you. You're not into experimenting with too many players when it's a close game. But again, we're certainly expecting another very close game. We're going to try to give guys chances who haven't played much yet. Simple as that."

Question: Jarvis said that he is getting chills thinking about his first home game, thinking about 2001, running out of the tunnel, and the fans chanting Game-Cocks. What does that say about the overall atmosphere of Williams-Brice and the impression it makes on recruits?

Answer: "I hope Jarvis and all of our guys are really fired up about playing at home. I know our fans are ready to scream and yell a little bit and have a big time here, hopefully a big time here Saturday night. Yeah, Jarvis had the opportunity to go to a lot of schools and he chose the Gamecocks. I hope all our players feel that way, and I think we will this week."

Question: After watching the film of the red-zone offense, was it just lack of execution?

Answer: "It was a little bit. A little bit here and there, a little bit here and there. It just didn't work out as well as we had hoped. Again, we need to continue running the ball and throwing a little bit better here and there... Again, we are working on all phases of our offense and defense, but we do need to do much better in the red-zone than we have the first two games."

Question: Coach, how has Chris Culliver developed since he's come in as a kickoff returner and as a free safety?

Answer: "Oh, he's playing fine. Of course they all played extremely well the first game. The second game we weren't quite as good as the first game defensively. Chris has played well. He's a fast kid back there and can anticipate. They are going to come in here and throw it around, so our db's may have an opportunity to make a play or two this week hopefully."

Question: Coach, Coach Mangus was talking last night about Stephen. He said that Stephen had a lot of confidence in the game plan that you had put together for the last game against Georgia. How important is that for a quarterback to go into a game having confidence, or is his role just to execute the game plan you and the coaches have put together?

Answer: "Yeah, we're trying to really stick with what we're doing. Stephen and these guys practiced a lot on their own this summer and all pre-season, and we're trying to do the things over and over that we've been doing. That's what we've got to do. You can't have a new game plan every week. You've got to do what your team does. We're trying to do that, and again hopefully our run game will get a little bit better, but Stephen is starting to understand what we are trying to do. Hopefully, he'll have a breakout game here real soon. I don't know when it's going to be, but we're hoping a break out game occurs soon."

Question: What's a breakout game in your view?

Answer: "Oh, a breakout game is scoring a lot of points, scoring in the red-zone when you get down there, really looking sharp at what you're doing, things of that nature. The way (Texas quarterback) Colt McCoy and some of those guys play. That's called breakout games, but we've got to do whatever we can to win the game. Who knows how it's going to play out. It may be a run game this week, it may be another pass game a lot. Who knows how it's going to work out. But, we need to get better down in the red zone, get better covering kicks. There are a lot of areas we need to improve upon."

Closing Statement By Spurrier:

"We're looking forward to this game. We're not the first team to ever lose a tough one. We've lost them in the past. We'll bounce back. The guys are excited about playing at home this week."

For videos of freshman running back Jarvis Giles and junior defensive end Cliff Matthews taken from the same press conference please click here.

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