Q&A: Spurrier previews Ole Miss

South Carolina head football Coach Steve Spurrier addressed the media on Tuesday in advance of the highly anticipated Thursday night showdown with the top 5 ranked Ole Miss Rebels. GamecockAnthem was on hand to cover everything the Head Ball Coach had to say about the Gamecocks, the Ole Miss Rebels, and this week's primetime matchup on national TV.

For a full video of the Press Conference click here.

Spurrier's Opening Statement:

"We're looking forward to another national TV Thursday night, big-time ball game. Ole Miss as we all know is #4 or #5 in the country, something like that. They really haven't started the meat of their schedule yet. Hopefully, we'll be considered one of their tougher opponents as we go through. Anyway, it's a big conference game, big for them, big for us. It should be a heck of a ball game. We're looking forward to it. A lot of our guys that have been banged up, we think will be back. We won't know how long they'll last if they are back, but again that's part of football. Hopefully our backup players are ready to compete and play their best. So we'll see how it goes."

Question: In watching the game against Memphis, it looked like the Ole Miss defense played a lot of man to man in the back. Are you expecting that same type of defense, and if they do, can Stephen take advantage by throwing the ball downfield more?

Spurrier: "It could be a little bit more man to man. Ole Miss has played a little bit more than most teams, I guess. But they mix it up. They mix in their zones and their pressures and all that with their man to man. Right now they've played more [man to man] than our first three opponents, that's for sure."

Question: What are your impressions of Jevan Snead compared to all the SEC quarterbacks you've faced over the years? Not in terms of ranking, but who's he remind you of, where does he fit in?

Spurrier: "I don't rank them, that's for you guys. He's a good passer. Last year when we were out there, I just noticed how the ball came out of his hand. He threw almost perfect spirals most every time. But fortunately we got a little pressure, and we knocked it out once, and Nate Pepper scooped up a fumble and scored. Carlos [Thomas] got the interception there at the end. As we know, good defense can stop just about any quarterback. Hopefully we're going to have good defense here Thursday night. He's an excellent passer, big strong guy, can run around a bit, so he's a very very good quarterback. One of the best around. He's a good one."

Question: What do you think of your defense this year? Are you impressed with them after three games? Are you impressed with the way they have been able to overcome injuries and some suspensions?

Spurrier: "Our defense is okay, and our offense is okay. And we're trying to get better in special teams as well. We're trying to get better in every area. We haven't dominated in any particular phase. We haven't been terrible. The whole team is just trying to get better. The whole team's trying to get better. We've had a few injuries, more on defense than on offense. But other than that, we're just trying to get better in every area of the game. Especially kickoff coverage and kickoffs. I guess we put that together. Our kicker and cover guys must do a better job than what we have done lately."

Question: Tori Gurley was in here earlier and said that the night you guys beat Kentucky on that Thursday night game in 2007, he called the same night and committed to Ron Cooper or Tyrone Nix. Is that the sort of impact these nationally televised games against a top ten type program can have?

Spurrier: "Okay, I didn't know that! I knew he was working for Home Depot that year. He knew going to college and playing football was a lot more fun than that I think. I'm really proud of Tori though. This young man has worked hard. When he got here, he didn't know much about playing receiver. In fact, I think Coach Cooper originally recruited him to play defense. Strong safety, outside linebacker, something like that. And he said, 'No, I want to play wide receiver, and I think I can develop into a wide receiver.' And he has. He has developed; he has improved, runs good routes, and catches the ball. So that is why he is getting a lot of balls coming his way right now. He's proven he can run good routes and catch the ball. He still makes some mistakes here and there, as all of our guys have. He hasn't played that much. I guess he's played three games of college wide receiver in his life right now. So hopefully he'll continue learning and so forth, but he's got a wonderful attitude. When guys make a mistake and they have a wonderful attitude, you don't worry about that. You know they'll try to correct it the next time. That's why Tori has done so well."

Spurrier on the significance of Thursday night's ball game on recruiting:

"It can be, it certainly can be. Everyone watches, I know I watch Thursday night games. I'm sure all of you do too. There's no competition on the other channels for a ball game. The ratings are usually pretty good if it's a good, close game."

Question: When talking about Ole Miss, there is a lot of talk about Jevan Snead their quarterback. How about their defense, how do you rate them?

Spurrier: "Their defense has been very good. I don't know where exactly it was all ranked last year, but I know they haven't lost a game in about a year now. I think they lost one after we played them. So they're on a winning streak. They've done what's necessary to win the game. They beat Texas Tech in their bowl game. They've played well; they've got a lot of good players. Team speed at Ole Miss is very good. Houston Nutt and his staff have done an excellent job there. They inherited some good players, and they've done a good job with them."

Question: Talking about another wide receiver, Jason Barnes. He probably had the best game of his career last year in Oxford. He had 3 catches in the last game. Do you see Jason finally turning the corner here?

Spurrier: "Yeah, Jason's doing fine. He and Moe Brown. Some weeks, some guys get more [catches] than others. You know Weslye [Saunders] got a bunch the game before and didn't get too much last week, and that's football, it's a team sport. So we ask our guys to go do the best you can and be happy for your teammates if they have an opportunity to be a big part of the game more than you are some weeks. Yeah, Jason's coming around nicely. He did have a big game last year. He had a good game against Kentucky and had several good games, some games not so good. He's doing fine."

Question: Are you to the point now where you know what to expect out of the offense?

Spurrier: "No, no, we're not anywhere close to that. We're hoping eventually around here that we can hit some deep passes when we get some guys open, and we can make more third downs. Our third down conversion has been near the bottom of the league. So we've got a long way to go, long way. Hopefully we can on 4th and 1 against Florida Atlantic, we can make it, not run in there and fumble. Things like that we would hope we could do better, so we've got a long way to go."

Question: How tough is it to stop a guy like Dexter McCluster in the Wild Rebel? What are your thoughts on that type of formation and the teams that are running that?

Spurrier: "It keeps you loose; the Miami Dolphins ran it last night a bunch and made a bunch of yards. It requires the defensive staff to have a plan for that formation. We pretty much sort of know most teams run the same plays out of it. Of course you don't know which one they're coming with. Last year, Ellis [Johnson] and the guys made some adjustments at halftime. He sort of made up a defense, or had one he hadn't used in a while, and put it in at halftime. Sort of a three man line scheme that accounted for that. I think we stopped it once or twice and they quit doing it. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to stop it a few times and then they'll go back to normal offense with Snead at quarterback there. Which one's the toughest? I don't know. They're both pretty good at what they do."

Question: You say you aren't where you want to be offensively, but have you made incremental steps in the first three games?

Spurrier: "Well again, a little bit. I wouldn't say anything real big. Not until we can get better pass protection, and better run blocking. At times we had some good holes last week, but again Florida Atlantic is not an SEC defense. We've made a few yards, but haven't done anything too exciting yet."

Question: Do you tell Stephen Garcia to slide at the end of his runs?

Spurrier: "No, I don't believe in sliding. I think you can sprain an ankle and do things like that. We tell him to get low and dive forward. That way you get the most out of your run. When you slide, you lose two yards every time you slide. But if you can get down there and fall forward a little bit and avoid the big hit, that's what I've always tried to tell our quarterbacks to do that I've coached. Stephen, he's a good runner with the ball, and we've got him going forward now instead of sideways, which he did a little bit in the past. So if he stays forward and gets low, you usually avoid a big hit."

Question: What would a win Thursday do as far as moving your program to that next level, a win over a top five team on national television?

Spurrier: "Well, certainly the one two weeks ago would have been very good too. But we're not putting any kind pressure on our guys. We're going to go out and play and try to have a lot of fun and play better. That's our goal for the year, is to play better one game to the next. So far we have not put a total game together: offense, defense, and special teams. So we've got an opportunity here Thursday night, and we'll go from there. It's a big conference game. It's just one out of twelve for us, and we're going to try and play the best we can."

Question: Some of the media critics might say that Ole Miss at number four might be a little bit overrated. Are you able to get a true read on them based on their first two opponents?

Spurrier: "At times, I think they've not been all that impressive, but again sometimes we all play to the level of our opponent. But it is interesting. What's the point spread on this game? The only reason I look at point spreads is because that is what the people who know think about each team. They think they're pretty close. What's it? 3 or 4 [point spread]. So they think we're pretty close with them, and we're not even ranked and they're number four in the country. I don't know what that says. I think that says that the people who do the odds think we're a pretty good team also, although we're not ranked because we didn't win a game that we had a chance to. I think we are a good team, and I think they are a very good team, and it should be a very exciting ball game."

Question: You mentioned last night's game, the Dolphins/Colts game. Did that game show that it's possible to win a football game even with very limited opportunities on offense, provided you take advantage of those opportunities?

Spurrier: "Well, it's still who gets the most points. Ball possession, time of possession is important, but it's not everything as is proven over and over again. Usually the team that runs the best wins, but not always. Usually the team that has the ball the most wins, but not always. That was just one of those last night that Indy didn't have it much, but they scored about every time they had it I guess, and of course were able to win the game."

Question: Your team has been guilty of giving up momentum right after they take it, how do you guard against that?

Spurrier: "How do you guard against it? I don't know. I've been trying to guard against it ever since I've been here. Do you remember that UCF game on Thursday night that we opened up with five years ago? We scored on the first possession and I looked up and there was 13:20 or 13:30 left on the clock. The other night I looked up there and it was the same thing. Louisiana Lafayette we opened up with, we had fourteen to nothing, with seven minutes left in the first quarter, halftime it was tied. I don't know, we're yelling and screaming and coaching our hearts out, but something seems to keep holding us back, and we get in a dogfight with teams you think we are going to clobber. We'll keep pushing and keep going, and hopefully someday we can sort of put teams away early and let everybody play a lot late. We're just not quite at that level right now. We're not a veteran, seasoned team by any means, that's just the way it's happened. Our guys played pretty well overall, most all of them did pretty well the other night. I'm proud of them."

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