Q&A: Spurrier previews Hogs

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier met with the media for his weekly press conference, discussing his team as they head into another road matchup against SEC opponent Arkansas this weekend. Among other things, he discussed the team's mindset after a difficult loss to Tennessee, the health of safety Chris Culliver, and the attitude of his players heading into the stretch run of the season.


Opening statement: "Okay, we're looking forward to playing Arkansas, our common opponent on the (SEC) western side. Since we've been here, we're 2-2 with those guys. It's sort of a game to see who's got a little bit of bragging rights I guess as far as our two teams. Probably a lot of similarities between us and Arkansas, except they have probably been a little bit better. It seems like a little bit over the years they have been a little bit behind Alabama, Auburn and LSU. But they have been to the SEC Championship game three times. They have done pretty well and Bobby Petrino and his staff are doing a good job, they're 4-4, leading the conference in pass offense, second in total offense. They move the ball around. If we are going to beat them we've got to play a little better offensively than we have recently, but we're looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to going out there and playing our second day game of the year. We'll be able to get back to Columbia at a decent hour and won't be so tired Sunday morning. But other than that, they're a good team that had a big win last week, and they are certainly looking forward I'm sure to their last three or four games also. They have four more, we just have three more. We're looking forward to going out there, and hopefully we can play a lot better, have fewer mistakes, take care of the ball a lot better, and give ourselves a chance to win. We've won a lot of games this year when the other team messed up, the other team had touchdowns called back, and that's sort of what happened to us last game and hopefully we will not repeat that. We're looking forward to this game with Arkansas."

Question: Coach, is playing so many young players hurting this team as much as it's helping it at times?

Spurrier: "Certainly the other night, I guess our first two fumbles were by a couple of freshmen. A lot of stuff caught up with us the last game. But I was telling our gang the ifs and buts don't mean anything, but if we'd stopped the 4th and 2 play, and we don't get Stephon's (Gilmore) touchdown called back, that's 14 points right there with two little things that happened there. But they didn't happen, and they outrushed us, they outgained us and this that and the other, but we could've been in the game. We weren't because of the turnovers and they made plays when it was necessary.

Now, Stephon Gilmore ran that touchdown back, there's another freshman playing. We play a bunch of freshmen. We know that, but still we aren't using that as any kind of excuse. We didn't play smart and it came back to haunt us obviously in the final score. Other teams have sort of played that way against us. You know Ole Miss had a touchdown called back against us. We've stopped a lot of people down around the goal line and forced them to kick field goals, that's helped us win some of these close games.

So it turned around on us last time, but we're 6-3 and for this team that's pretty good. We are proud of our guys. I think our guys will rebound and give a good account of themselves as we go play Arkansas this week."

Question: Steve, you've got Chris Culliver second team this week, what is that a result of?

Spurrier: "Well, actually Chris Culliver's not playing this week. Chris Culliver's shoulder has bothered him a bit and some other things have happened that he's taking this week off. So hopefully he'll be back next week ready to contribute to our success. Chris is out this game."

Question: Coach, watching the Arkansas video of their defense, do they do anything differently than last season? I don't think the results have changed, I think they're still in the bottom of the league in defense.

Spurrier: "At times (they've) looked pretty good, obviously against Florida they looked very good. But they have given up some yards, but their offense makes so many yards. Then when their offense scores so quickly, they're on the field maybe more than other defenses. But again, they have an excellent pass rush; they've got the same defensive coordinator, same sort of scheme of things. They've played well. Just because you're near the bottom of the SEC in some defensive categories doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad defense. It just means somebody's got to be down there at the bottom, I guess. Total defense, yeah they are down there right now. Look at Auburn, they're number 11 and those guys can play some defense also."

Question: Coach, do you think Ryan Mallet is the toughest quarterback you've faced so far this season?

Spurrier: "The toughest? Well we haven't played him yet. We haven't hit him enough to see if he can bounce back. But he may be the best passer, certainly I think he's leading the conference in most passing statistics. He could be the best passer we've faced definitely."

Question: Steve, Culliver's situation coming off the game the other night. I know he had the shoulder thing, were you satisfied with his effort, number one? Number two, are you sensing some of the same stuff the juniors went through last year?

Spurrier: "Well we had a little talk with our team that if you have an injury and you can't perform, you need to tell the coaches. That was the biggest problem, we think it was, and that was certainly embarrassing for all of us. We don't like it, I don't like it, and hopefully that will not happen again. That's all I need to say about it, he's not playing this week, he's not going on the trip, and hopefully he'll come back next week and his shoulder will be fine and he can play like he played earlier in the year. That's what we're hoping."

Question: Steve, were you disappointed not just in charisma, you had mentioned a couple other players' effort level that here in your fifth year and your ninth game of the season to have that going on?

Spurrier: "No obviously some of his attempted tackles were glaring, but overall it wasn't that bad. The effort was decent. Wasn't great, but hopefully we can get a little bit better as we go."

Question: Given how dinged up some of the guys are getting at this point in the year, would you be more in favor next year of having an open date earlier before the second to last weekend of the season?

Spurrier: Well we've always been in favor of that, but that's just not the way it works out for us. We'd like to have one in the middle of the year. We're working on changing the schedule a little bit too. A couple of years ago we had Middle Tennessee (State) about the tenth game or something like that. Sometimes that break of not having all the conference games and then Clemson at the end I think is helpful. And I think we're working towards that, I'm not exactly sure if it's going to happen. Again you've got to play them all and sometimes it happens however it happens. We're looking forward to this game. They're a good team, and they're at home, and they had a big win last week, but we feel like we can play a lot better than we've played recently so we're going to try to do it."

Question: Coach, it seems your team has not responded well to adversity in key games.

Spurrier: "I think they have responded fairly well to adversity. We've had some bad things happen, we bounced back and won those games. But obviously we couldn't overcome the quick 21 that was up last week. But the guys, they hung in there and fought through the second half but it wasn't good enough as it turned out."

Question: Coach, last night Coach Wolford thought Jarriel (King) might have a slight concussion, is Jarriel going to play this week and what exactly is his status right now?

Spurrier: "Yeah Jarriel his status is up in the air. They think he got bonked in the head somehow I guess in the game last week. Actually took him to the hospital Saturday night late, and he did not practice yesterday so Kyle Nunn could be there at left tackle. He and Chisolm could be the left side with Lem and Garrett at center, TJ (Johnson) and Hutch (Eckerson) and Quintin (Richardson) at right tackle. So we've still got eight guys who can play a bit."

Question: Steve, you mentioned the first two fumbles Saturday were committed by freshmen. When you have a long season like this without a break, is it more wearing on the freshmen just because of everything they have to get accustomed to, practice, travel?

Spurrier: "Well I don't know. We held onto the ball after that, just had the one turnover in the second half when Stephen threw the ball a little hard at Kenny (Miles) on the little dump off (that) ricocheted to their guy. But we've been pretty good holding onto the ball all year. Certainly the other night Stephen, Kenny, and Justice Cunningham had it knocked out. Hopefully we can learn to protect the ball better. They hit us right on the ball and we flashed it right to them. So we've got to teach our guys how to protect it better."

Question: Steve, a lot of fans are like 'Here we go again' with this end of season stretch.

Spurrier: "Well here we go also with six wins and three losses right now. So we're not as bad off as some of you guys want to attempt to make us feel. We don't feel bad. We've got a bunch of young guys playing and we're 6-3 and it could be worse (with) a few plays here and there in some of those victories. We're not putting any pressure on our guys. They try to play as hard as they can every game, and our job is to get them out there and put them in position to go play."

Question: It's a positive question. Do you talk to your guys and say, "You're a young unique team, you don't have the past on your shoulders." At some point do you address that and say "it's about right now?"

Spurrier: "We haven't talked about winning the SEC, we haven't talked about going to a major bowl or anything because our team is a bunch of freshmen and youngsters with a few seniors, some older guys here and there. To me the best thing to do is to try to play pressure free. There's no pressure on us. Well, there was a little pressure in that Vandy game because we certainly wanted to get that sixth win right there and not have to try to go through all these games where we're going to be underdogs. We're going to be underdogs all these games, you understand that, don't you? So that means the experts think we're not as good as the teams we're playing. And whether or not they're right or not, we've got to go find out.

But we're looking forward to just going and playing, trying to get Stephen Garcia to play a lot better. Those receivers, offensive line, defensive guys. We're looking forward to this game. There's no pressure on our guys. We're not going to have a losing regular season, that's for sure. And there's a lot of teams out there that still can have one. Again we would love to get that seventh win, we would love to get it this week if we possibly can, and then go from there."

Question: Coach, how do you feel about the intangibles this team brings?

Spurrier: "Confidence? I think we are somewhere between, we know it's probably going to be a close, hard fought game, and we know we have a chance to win. That's probably where our confidence is right now. We've still got a lot of coaching to do with these players. We still believe our big, big seasons are a little bit down the road here. That's just where we are right now. 6-3 for this team, somebody said, ‘Well coach you lost at Georgia, at Tennessee, and at Alabama." Those are our three losses right there. You know we haven't lost to Eastern Illinois or somebody like that, we've lost to some pretty good teams on the road. So don't try to make us feel bad, we don't feel bad. We had a lousy game last week, but we don't feel bad and you guys can't make us feel bad, okay? So we're looking forward to this game right here."

Question: Has any offensive lineman that you've coached come further in a shorter amount of time than Garrett Chisolm?

Spurrier: "Now there's a good question. Garrett Chisolm showed up before the season and of course Jamie Speronis is in charge of our walk-ons. He said some pretty big strong looking kid wants to come out, says he plays o-line. So we have a little tryout, they run around a little bit. (Said) okay let's come out to practice, gave him a uniform. He started out with scout team after school started, he wasn't here August the first with the other guys, he had to wait until school started. So we didn't get a look at him until August 18th, something like that. But anyway I remember one day coach Lorenzo Ward said, ‘That new kid over there has knocked our guys on their butts.' I said, ‘What, that new guy, what's his name?' Somebody said Chisolm, Garrett Chisolm, Pepper and those guys, they don't like going against him all that much. So we started watching him a bit, finally started coaching him over with the varsity and not the scout team. And sure enough he does have some good athletic ability, good feet, takes a stand in there. He had a lot to learn of course, and hopefully now he knows enough just to let him go play.

He wants it, he's got a wonderful attitude. He comes early. Coach Wolford says this guy's five minutes early to every meal on the road, he's five minutes early to meetings. He's got a wonderful attitude that hopefully will rub off on these other players. As a coach you love those kind of guys. You love those guys that really act like this is important to them. So Garrett is a very serious young man that wants to be a very good offensive lineman and he's got a chance. We think he has a chance. He's got to go play a lot more, he'll make some mistakes here and there but he's got a wonderful attitude about him."

Question: Steve, you mentioned attitude. Do you not let outside expectations bring your team down? Do you think at the heart of this team it's a better chemistry, better attitude maybe than some of the teams you've had in the past?

Spurrier: "Well it certainly has been. Some things happened the last game that we don't like, as coaches we'll address that and hopefully put an end to whatever happened that made it appear that way. Yeah I think so. Moe Brown's a good leader, and of course Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood do a super job. But again, we need to go play, play well. All that takes care of itself if you play well."

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