Spurrier: Turnovers are key against Clemson

The Gamecocks hit the practice fields again on Wednesday evening, working out for nearly two hours in continued preparation for Clemson. Despite the Thanksgiving break on Thursday, USC and its coaches have been busy preparing for their arch-rival's visit to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday at noon.


The University of South Carolina football team has a lot to be thankful for this week. They are currently bowl eligible, with a bright future, and a chance to upset a nationally ranked rival this weekend in the Clemson Tigers. But Coach Steve Spurrier also assured fans that his team is focused and ready for their upcoming game.

"This is the biggest game of the year for us, no question about it," said Spurrier. "We realize the importance of the ballgame. To play our best, that's what we've got to concentrate on is getting prepared mentally, physically, and emotionally to go out and play our best the entire game."

The team will have a busy day Thursday, fitting in both a practice and a trip to the Epworth Children's Home to have a Thanksgiving meal and visit with the children. Practice will be closed to the media on Thanksgiving, and the team will go through its normal game preparations on Friday. Spurrier said that staying in a routine this week will help his team be free of the normal Turkey Day distractions.

"We've got next week to do all that with our families," stated Spurrier. "We'll go to the Epworth Children's Home tomorrow with our team (and) have lunch. (We'll) see those children over there, try to spread a little good will, whatever we can do. Then (we'll) practice tomorrow afternoon and do our usual Thursday practice."

As mentioned before, the Gamecocks are looking to build a successful future in their football program. However, Spurrier said that this team is not in any way looking ahead to next year, but still concentrating on what they can accomplish this season.

With only nine seniors on the roster, the young Gamecock squad knows that building a "New Carolina" starts with beating the Tigers.

"Who's talking next year?" asked Spurrier. "No, there's no talk about next year right now. We're trying to talk about the game here, against Clemson."

Spurrier said that practices have been going pretty well this week, but the game will probably come down to one crucial factor: turnovers. The Gamecock defense has not forced a turnover in any of the last four games. That will have to change against an excellent Clemson offense that has a variety of weapons.

"We've had decent practices, we just need to go play the game as well as we can and try to play without any crucial big turnovers," noted Spurrier. "And try to get some, we haven't had many lately, in fact we haven't had any lately. We just have to get ready to play the best we can and have a go at them, and see what happens."

As for kicking to the Tigers star return man C.J. Spiller? Spurrier was asked again about how his special teams unit will deal with both Spiller and teammate Jacoby Ford, but brushed it aside with a quick laugh.

"We can't divulge our game plans," joked Spurrier. "You know we can't answer those. We'll tell you after the game what we plan to do in all those situations."

In summing up the Clemson football squad, Spurrier said simply, "they're a total team."


For Ellis Johnson, it's an in-state affair

The Gamecocks assistant head coach, Ellis Johnson, has seen both sides of the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. He coached for the Tigers from 1994 to 1996, and is also a graduate of the Citadel. He coached high school football for several years in the Spartanburg area as well. Needless to say, Coach Johnson is excited for the game, but also excited about what it means to the state of South Carolina.

"The game is special to me for different reasons," said Johnson. "I was born and raised here. I've been a part of the high school coaching fraternity in this state."

Will all of his experience in South Carolina, Johnson said that he wants to see coaches and players in the state taking more pride in where they are from. He says it is Carolina's and Clemson's job to keep high school recruits from leaving the state, as they can promote the rich football tradition of the Palmetto State by staying in-state for college.

"It starts to irritate me when we don't take the pride in our high school state football and let kids go out of state when there are two great universities here they can go to," said Johnson. "I think it's a lack of self respect, and I want to see it reach a point where these two programs (are) playing on a level where they get some national respect."

Johnson noted that it won't be that difficult facing the Tigers since he knows so many people from the coaching ranks. He did say it is "tough on whoever loses" since there are so many friends on both sides of this rivalry.


Ajiboye looking forward to the challenge of Clemson's offense

Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye voiced his confidence in himself as well as the South Carolina defense on Wednesday.

"I feel real confident that the defense is going to dominate," proclaimed Ajiboye of the upcoming game against Clemson. "I feel like we're going to dominate because we've been having good practices so I feel confident going into the game."

There is certainly no lack of confidence in Ajiboye's words, and he echoed the sentiments of Spurrier in saying that the team's preparation and focus are two of the reasons the Gamecocks will have a chance in this game.

"We're going to go into this game confident, probably underdogs, but I feel like we're going to show up."

Notes:

- Spurrier said that he hopes to retain all of the coaches from this staff for next year. He said that this year's recruiting class is another reason he is excited about the future of the program.

- Backup QB Reid McCollum was back at practice after missing time Tuesday with an illness. Spurrier said he will be fine for the game Saturday.

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