Q&A: Spurrier previews Gators

Coach Steve Spurrier met with the media Tuesday, previewing the Gamecocks matchup this weekend with the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators. Spurrier talked about facing his former team, as well as the Gamecocks' attitude as they try to get back on the winning track after two straight road losses.


Opening Statement: "Okay, we're getting ready to play the Florida Gators, and as most of you know, it's a special game with the Wounded Warrior project being the recipient of hopefully a lot of proceeds from this game. I think our uniforms we will wear will be auctioned off, and it's a wonderful thing that we can do to help the wounded warriors. Those guys really deserve everything we can do for them for what they do over in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and around the world. So we're honored that this game was chosen, and Under Armour, our apparel company, is to be commended also for sponsoring this game. And hopefully we can raise a lot of money for the Wounded Warrior project.

Okay, other than that, the #1 team in the country is coming in, and they're a very good team obviously. (They) won all their games, probably haven't won by as big scores as they were last year, but they've won them all and they do sort of whatever's necessary to win the game. We're certainly hoping to get in a close game with them somehow and see if we can't make a play.

Arkansas was in the game with them obviously, had a chance. Mississippi State was actually pretty close for a while there. But they're a very good running team, and Tim Tebow of course has broken about all the records for quarterbacks running, passing, total touchdowns. I think he broke Herschel Walker's record last game or so for most (rushing) touchdowns in SEC history. So he's a force running the ball and he's also an excellent passer. So it'll be a big challenge, but we're looking forward to what can happen here Saturday afternoon at 3:30.

Our guys are looking forward to it. Our guys attitude is good. We had a good attitude going into the last game at Arkansas; we didn't play as well Arkansas played. They played flawless. We had about the same amount of yards as they did. Same amount of first downs exactly, but they played a little sharper than we did and that's how you get beat. But anyway, we're looking forward to this game and hoping and believing someday we can really put it all together, and maybe it'll happen this Saturday."

Question: Is it still sentimental in any way for you to go up against your old team?

Spurrier: "No, I don't think so. I think after five years it's not anywhere close to where it was the first year. And really after the first year it wasn't (that bad). These are our guys, these are my guys here, and really we're trying to find some plays that will give us a chance to stay on the field, make some first downs.

Watching that tape from last year, we really got clobbered last year down there. We want to be competitive, we want to give them a game here Saturday afternoon and see what happens. But that's mainly my thoughts and really the thoughts of our coaches and players."

Question: Coach, with the players wearing these special uniforms Saturday as a way to honor the wounded warriors, is there an extra responsibility on the players now to go out and play with full effort?

Spurrier: "I think our guys played with a lot of effort the last game. I really do. We covered kickoffs better than we have all year, and we did a lot of things pretty well. We didn't score touchdowns when we had chances, had some balls bounce off our guys that usually don't, had one jump ball that they came down with and we didn't. But our guys were ready to play last week, and I told them afterwards. I said, ‘Hey, I'm proud of you guys.' You played hard, weren't as proficient as we could have been, we left some points out there, and the other team I think they missed one field goal. Other than that, they maximized just about all of their scoring chances. I think they had five other chances and they got four touchdowns and a field goal. Our guys will be ready to play, I feel confident that will happen."

Question: Steve, how would you compare the Florida defense they have right now with some of the best you've seen in the SEC, and specifically what do they do to make themselves so good?

Spurrier: "Well, we were talking about Alabama's defense, and Florida's, and they're probably pretty close in all the rankings. I think they're first and second in the conference. So they've got big strong players at all the positions. (Defensive Coordinator) Charlie Strong does a super job. I know Charlie was here several years back in the ‘90s I guess, and Charlie's developed into an excellent defensive coordinator. (He's) one of the best in the country. They do their zone blitzes and they disguise well, play a little man-to-man. Hopefully Charlie gets one of those head coaching jobs that are open right now. I see his name mentioned all the time and he certainly is deserving. Charlie Strong deserves one of those head jobs that's coming open."

Question: Steve, you said maybe you'll be able to put it all together. Is there one factor that's been keeping you from putting it all together this season?

Spurrier: "I don't know if one factor is the word. You know, we started this season and I think I remember one of our local writers said the expectations weren't too high, we didn't have a proven quarterback, we really didn't have a big play wide receiver returning, or running back, and there wasn't huge expectations of this team. Probably the Kentucky game was one of our better games because we scored touchdowns that game, and that's why we won. Instead of field goals and so forth. But when I say put it all together, the year we beat Florida here, we had five scoring chances and we got four touchdowns and a field goal. We had an extra point blocked and they returned it for a touchdown, but that's how we got our thirty points. And usually to upset a team you really have to maximize your scoring chances. We didn't do it at Alabama, didn't do it last week, but if we can do that, you'll have a chance against those teams. Arkansas had a chance against Florida, and they really didn't maximize. They had to kick a bunch of field goals down in there. So they left a few points out there. Anyway, that's what you hope will happen. We beat Ole Miss without doing that, our defense was sensational against Ole Miss. I think they made 1 of 13 3rd downs. Our offense didn't make a first down in the 4th quarter, and we still won the game so that was the way that one turned out."

Question: Coach, you said earlier there were a lot of miscommunications on the sideline, what do you attribute that to?

Spurrier: "Well, I don't think it's that much. Somebody wrote, we had to call two timeouts in a row. And we did, we were on the one and a half, two yard line, and we just wanted to make sure we had a good play call and we did. Stephen didn't see the clock going down. He did not see it going down. We're yelling, ‘Call the play, go,' and he did not know it had started. I ran up there and called another one real fast. And then we ran the play we wanted, didn't execute it very well one or two guys, and we didn't make it, so we had to end up kicking a field goal. But other than that, communication hasn't been that bad. We checked off at the line several times and it was very helpful for us. We converted a bunch of third downs last week and when you do that, the clock runs down to three, two, one. So we got most of them off.

Now our offensive line for the first half had the false starts last week. Obviously we can't say (anything) about the refereeing. But the rule is, and it's a judgment call. Both times an Arkansas guy jumped first. But the rule is, from what I hear, he can jump as long as he's not intentionally trying to pull the offensive guy offsides. He can jump and get back. One time he went all the way across the line of scrimmage and came back. Another time one of their guys (moved) and Kyle Nunn backed up a bit. So it's the judgment of the referee, is if he just accidentally went forward or not. And that was the interpretation that we got. So it was ruled that neither one of their guys were intentionally trying to get our guys to flinch. But they did and we got both of those penalties."

>B?Question: Steve, your first couple years, obviously you beat Florida your first year, then there's that blocked field goal right at the end, but you guys were right there in the Swamp going toe to toe with them. These last two years Florida's kind of gotten ahead of you. Is it as simple as them having a Tim Tebow in charge of the offense, or what's happened down there or hasn't happened up here?

Spurrier: "Well obviously their recruiting has been very good since Urban Meyer's been there, and they've added (top) classes in the country almost the last three, four years, something like that. Of course Tim Tebow (and) Percy Harvin, but then their defensive players, they're a talented bunch. Some of our recruiting classes we thought were going to turn out better than they have, they really haven't for whatever reason. So as we all know we feel like we have a really good group of young guys here now, and the guys we have committed we feel are really going to be good players here. You can say, well you said that four years ago, well you're right I did say that four years ago and I was wrong, we were all wrong. We've got good coaches now."

Question: Steve, the offensive production the last four games in terms of points has really dropped off and has led to a lot of questions about play calling. Who is doing the majority of the play calling and do you think that has impacted it?

Spurrier: "Actually our offense has played better. I think we played better offensively this year against Arkansas than last year when we scored 34 points. Now we didn't score every time we were down there about like we did last year. But yeah, I call most of the plays. I may be the principle play caller now with suggestions from the other coaches. Although that's about how we've been doing it. I still carry all of the ball plays out there and so forth. Some of you may say, well let somebody else call all of them, it's not working very well. And some of you may say why don't you call it. It's all different on what's working or not. But I'm still very active. Really I probably do need to get in the huddle every time they come off the field to the sideline. But a lot of times I'm on the headset with G.A. and he's just in there talking to Stephen. Sometimes you don't want five guys talking to your quarterback. So I've allowed G.A. to do most of the talking, but I plan to get back in the huddle with all the guys every time they come back to the sideline."

Question: Steve, there's been some good quarterback play in this conference this year, guys like Mallet last week. Do you still put Tebow at the top?

Spurrier: "In our conference? Certainly. In college it's more running and passing than pro ball. And Tim Tebow is one of the best, if not the best, college quarterbacks. Sometimes his passes may not look as pretty as some of those other guys. But he has a knack of getting it there and he's without a doubt the best third down quarterback that maybe has played. Most of their championship game wins, SEC and National, he was sensational on third downs, just unbelievable. But he's a combination runner (and) passer, and that's what college football has been. We're not quite the NFL style yet. There's still a place certainly for running quarterbacks in college ball."

Question: Coach, from a year ago when they put up 56 (points) on you, they've lost one of their big playmakers, the offense may not be quite as dynamic. Does that give you confidence you can keep it a little bit closer, and like you said give yourself a chance at the end of the game?

Spurrier: "No, whatever gives us confidence is that we played with Alabama, we played with those guys pretty close. We didn't have much offense that night, although we had some chances here and there, and we had to kick a couple field goals. But they're a good team, but we just need to go play. Play the best we can, see what happens. Last year's game's history. They're a different team, we're a different team."

Question: Coach, with a follow-up to the Tebow question, it looks like the Florida offense has changed a little bit this year. I think their leading receiver is their tight end, Hernandez has got 43 receptions. Are they going more of a shorter type passing game now that Percy Harvin has moved on to the NFL?

Spurrier: "I haven't watched a whole bunch of their offense, just on tv. I know (wide receiver) Riley Cooper has caught a lot of passes. (He) caught I think a couple of touchdown passes against Georgia. They're still throwing it around. They still can run the ball, I think they're either first or second in the conference running. They're so good on special teams and defense it gives them a chance if the offense is sputtering."

Question: Steve, watching last week's game on TV, they cut to you and you looked angry at times, frustrated at times. Is there any chance, you talked about last year that you thought about leaving, that maybe you weren't going to get it done. I thought Chris Low on ESPN said maybe you gave it a couple of thoughts.

Spurrier: "Right after the Outback Bowl, who wouldn't have? Let me tell you what now. Hopefully obviously the A.D. and the President and all decide who coaches, who does one thing and the other. But we've got some guys that are really going to help us on the way. Got a good coaching staff here, and again I hope and plan to go three to four more years, something like that, and see what happens. Certainly if we're going 6-6 or 7-5, someone else certainly should have the opportunity to go. So hopefully that'll happen and we really do have some guys coming that I'm really looking forward to coaching. Looking forward to watching Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, we've really got some good young guys here that have got a chance to have big time careers here."

Question: "Coach, I know you can't talk about recruits, but when you say good guys coming, do you mean guys in the program already that maybe don't play much?

Spurrier: "Guys that are committed, that are not here yet. And still some that we're trying to get committed, that we hope and pray are going to come with us. So we'll see where that all falls out in January, February. One or two are coming in January."

Question: Coach, what do you make of people calling for your ouster?

Spurrier: "I didn't know there were. I make probably about the same thing as you sports writers when they call for your ouster."

Question: Steve, looking back when you arrived here in 2005 with the plan of what you wanted to do with this program, is it safe to say that this was a tougher job than you realized in 2005?

Spurrier: "Oh I would say that we have not recruited quite as well as we'd hoped. I would say that it hasn't worked out as well as we had hoped certainly. (We've) got a bunch of new coaches now. So we're in the process of sort of redoing it. We started it this year with these guys, with not a lot of expectations on our team. Our team was sort of, well we lost a lot of guys that played last year defensively. So anyway, we've got a new plan in place, in the next three or four years, and we'll see what happens. Unfortunately all these other schools have got pretty good plans too. We're in a good conference, we know it's not easy but we've got to have exceptional guys that have a commitment to really wanting to be champions. So hopefully we can get that going here in the next two, three years."

Question: Jarriel King told us last night that he enjoyed playing guard the last couple games. Is there any chance that Jarriel might move there permanently? He seems to enjoy the physical nature of it.

Spurrier: "Well, guard, tackle, whatever. I think maybe you can hide a little bit more at guard, but he may need to play tackle this week. Garrett Chisolm played pretty well in there (at guard), had a few mistakes here and there but not too bad. We'll put him wherever we think he can help us the most."

Question: Steve, you had said a couple of times previously that you never wanted to be a "CEO" type coach. Has it been less fun for you the last couple of years where you're not calling every play?

Spurrier: "Well I've called most of them, but I'm responsible for all of them. So yeah, actually we have a fairly good system in place. I'll probably be a little bit more involved as far as being responsible for all of them, with getting suggestions from the other guys. That's probably a little cleaner way to do it. But I can assure you that's not our problem. We've actually, the last two games we've lost, we've actually except for turnovers and the snap over the quarterback's head, we've actually done some pretty good things on offense. A heck of a lot better than we did against Ole Miss and N.C. State, but we won those games. It's all relative to winning as we say. Did they want my ouster two weeks ago, same guys, when we were 6-2. But anyway, we've made some improvement and Stephen is getting better. He can still get better, still had a few errant throws here and there that last week, but he threw some real nice ones too. We're still in the improving stage right now, just the way it's worked out."

Question: Coach, knowing that you have a young team, a lot of those guys weren't around when you've been competitive with Florida here. Knowing what's happened the last three or four weeks, do you feel like you have to do anything extra this week to get your team to believe they can win?

Spurrier: "Well, it's always difficult when you're playing a team that's ranked (highly). And we've struggled a bit lately. It hasn't been all offense. On defense, we gave up ten 3rd downs last week. We played pretty well but they made 10 out of 16, so our defensive coaches weren't happy. None of us were happy the entire game. So it's a team loss, it wasn't necessarily because of a few bad plays called, which we did. But that happens every game, that happens games we win also. We want to get in the game with them. We've got to challenge our players to go play as best they can every play, which is what we do each week. Hopefully some good things will happen, maybe the ball will bounce our way, which happened earlier in the year. It hasn't bounced that way the last two games. We've given away a bunch of turnovers and got none the last two games, so we need the ball to bounce our way a little bit, get some gracious penalties again."

Question: Coach, I believe it was your wife that said you took this job because you still had fire in your belly?

Spurrier: "Yeah, I like this team. I like our coaches. I like our attitude. Young guys are showing an excellent commitment around here. Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, I've enjoyed watching Alshon come around in the last three months. We're very encouraged, yeah, we're very encouraged around here."

Question: When you said a couple minutes ago, ‘We've got a new plan here,' can you elaborate on that?

Spurrier: "Well, we've got new coaches, and a bunch of young players that hopefully are going to make a commitment. We'll try to do what we can do, offense, defense, special teams. I know we talked about running the ball, and we have run it better, but we continue to get those big sacks. Of course we lost 32 yards on a shotgun snap last week. When you have the sacks that we've had, Stephen he's better at throwing it away, certainly he's better at throwing it away. The running game probably has not been quite as bad as it appears when you look at the stats, but that's what it is right now. Got a new strength coach too in that plan, Craig Fitzgerald. We think he's a sharp guy that's going to get our guys stronger and hopefully more motivated in the weight room.

Obviously to win big you need what Florida and Alabama have, and that's called a big powerful team. I was reading something the other day about how Bill Parcells builds his pro teams. Big powerful teams with a big running back, that's always helpful if you can get that kind of team going. We're trying to build a big powerful team. That's what we're trying to build around here. Haven't done it yet. Florida's got some guys that size too. We're trying to get them bigger. Bigger, stronger, and faster. But this team this year, at 6-4, has achieved okay. We've been underdogs most of the time and won all the ones that we're supposed to have, and a couple that we haven't. We're trying to play the best we can and trying to improve as we go, and I think the offense and a lot of guys on defense, we've had our injuries on defense. This team's going to be stronger next year for whatever that's worth. But we're not into next year now, we're into trying to beat the Gators somehow here Saturday afternoon."

Question: You've talked about your team's struggles in the red zone. Florida's tied with Mississippi State I think for the most turnovers in the red zone this year. Are teams defending differently in the red zone than they did in the past?

Spurrier: "Not really. They're still zoning up down there a lot and so forth. Arkansas was able to run them all, we didn't give up a touchdown pass last week, did we? So they actually had a better team than a lot of you thought. Good looking team. And that little running back they've got, he can break some tackles. But that game's history, and we'll be ready for the Gators on Saturday afternoon."

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