Spurrier, Gamecocks begin rivalry week prep

With only five days left until the biggest game of the year, the South Carolina Gamecocks hit the practice fields again on Monday to begin preparations for the Clemson Tigers. This year's game has been building its intrigue over the past couple weeks, as USC again tries to avoid a late season collapse, while Clemson fans hope this game can boost the Heisman chances of running back C.J. Spiller.

"The weather's supposed to be nice for Saturday, 60 or so," said Spurrier following Monday's workout. "(We're) looking forward to a good ballgame."

Carolina also returned to practice after taking the weekend off for a bye week. Spurrier reiterated his desire that the bye week come earlier in the season, rather than the week prior to the final regular season game.

"We'd prefer it in the middle of the season probably," stated Spurrier. "11 straight, weekend off, and then you got one. (But) I've never paid a lot of attention to open dates to tell you the truth. Sometimes you play well after one, sometimes you don't. Hopefully we'll play a lot better than the last time we played these guys."

A lot of the focus this week will be on how the Gamecock defense and coach Ellis Johnson can stop the Tigers "do everything" running back C.J. Spiller. The senior is being mentioned among the leaders for the Heisman trophy, and a good performance against the Gamecocks could land him in New York City for the trophy presentation on December 12th.

Spurrier had nothing but good things to say about the player that has given ACC defenses fits up and down the schedule in 2009.

"He's the fastest (running back) probably, that's for sure," noted Spurrier. "He can break tackles; he's really a big time running back. Certainly (he's) got a long career in the NFL. He's one of the best, there's no question about that. As a punt returner also, (he's) one of the best."

The Gamecocks will also be forced to go against the #12 ranked team nationally in total defense. The Clemson unit, led by defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, has made a reputation as one of the toughest in the entire country.

"They're right there in the top 10 or 15 in the nation in almost every defensive category," said Spurrier. "To have 20 interceptions, that sounds amazing to us, doesn't it? But they've been a very good defense all the way around. Well coached, Kevin Steele's done a good job with those guys."

South Carolina's struggles with the Clemson Tigers have been well documented. In the past ten years, USC has only won twice. But Spurrier said that each year is different, and his program is simply looking to start with a win.

"We're a different team, they're a different team," said Spurrier. "It should be a heck of a game."


- Spurrier said that defensive end Cliff Matthews should be "close to 100 percent" this weekend.

- Backup quarterback Reid McCollum again missed practice time, as he was recovering from an illness on Monday night. Spurrier praised the play of QB Zac Brindise after practice.

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