Cocks' talent level is on rise

Head football coach Steve Spurrier hasn't been blessed with the level of player talent at South Carolina that he enjoyed during his ultra-successful stint at Florida. A top-10 recruiting class last February moved The Ol' Ball Coach a bit closer, though.

Pete Fiutak, in a South Carolina preview posted at collegefootballnews.com, wonders aloud how Spurrier might fare if his Gamecock players were as talented as his Gator players were back in the 1990s. Here's a brief sampling of Fiutak's essay:

"We'll all know in a few years, once his tremendous 2007 recruiting class matures, but for now the Ol' Ball Coach will have to keep cranking out ultra-competitive teams, despite being outgunned at most positions by the SEC heavyweights. Even with fans expecting to wait a little while longer for USC to make its big run, it might not take much for the Gamecocks to shock the world this season and represent the East in the SEC championship game for the first time.

"The program has been agonizingly close to turning the corner before, but it hasn't been able to come up with a streak of wins to make it happen. Last year was the epitome of frustration, losing to Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, and most painfully, to Florida, by a touchdown or less. The hope is for a more mature, more experienced team to start finding more ways to win the tight games."

Certainly, Spurrier appears to be closing the gap on the SEC East's Big Three. He beat Tennessee and Florida in his first year at the Gamecock helm (2005) and barely lost to Georgia that fall. Last year he dropped heartbreakers to Tennessee and Florida. The loss to the Gators was particularly gut-wrenching, coming on a blocked field goal in the closing seconds.

Might this be the year – as Fiutak suggests – that the Gamecocks "shock the world" and win the East? Maybe. One preseason publication, Phipps SEC Football Guide, already has come out and picked Spurrier's team to win the division.


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