Aug. 4, 2006
Columbia, S.C. – South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier met with the media on Friday afternoon on South Carolina Media Day. The Gamecocks begin practice on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m.
“We are excited about our second year here (at South Carolina). We are excited about our freshman class. We are looking forward to practice on Saturday night and we are looking forward to watching our young guys. Obviously last year we were not a very good team. We won some games and I was proud of our guys hanging in there, winning some good games, but overall we were way down statistically on offense, defense and special teams. Sometimes our fans left the ballpark mumbling and we still won. Hopefully in the future they can leave the ballpark excited and we look like we know what we are doing, play with tremendous effort and love to compete. That is our goal this year. To have players compete harder, know their assignments better and really have fun playing the entire game. That will give us something to shoot for this year.”
Comparing this year and last year’s team
“We are a different team than last year. We had a meeting last night and we have a new academic advisor, Raymond Harrison, wonderful guy who came here from the University of Louisville. Raymond asked all the seniors to stand up and there were about eight guys standing up and five came here on scholarship. So that is where we are. We have eight seniors and about four or so will play for us. We are looking forward to seeing how this year’s (true) freshmen and the freshmen we red-shirted last year are ready to compete at this level.”
On the talent of this year’s team
“We are going to coach every position as hard as we can. We don’t feel real super about too much. I think we have two preseason All-SEC guys, Fred Bennett and Sidney Rice. Some of our guys can play better and could show people they are quality players.”
On Syvelle Newton and Andy Boyd returning from injury
“Syvelle has been cleared from what I hear to take off and practice. Andy Boyd has a knee that we have to watch. He’s not going to do everything, not all runs, but that’s ok. He has a chronic knee that can’t take the pounding. They are going to practice.
On this year’s true freshman class
We knew there wasn’t much coming back from last year. That’s why you recruit. We’ve had two solid classes (since we have been here). Who knows which class will turn out to be the best but there could be a lot of freshmen playing this year. As of right now, I would say this freshman class, as far as commitment level, is better than the first year. We try to recruit the best student-athletes we can. This group through the summer has been pretty good.”
On the defense
“Dakota (Walker) isn’t heavy enough so we have him playing that standup outside linebacker. Casper (Brinkley) is up to about 260 (pounds) now so he will be big enough to line up as defensive end with his hand on the ground quite a bit. Obviously, we don’t have a lot of returning players on defense, but that’s ok. Sometimes when we watched them play last year, I was thinking I hope those guys are seniors because I can’t watch it any longer. It’s going to be exciting. I think our fans are ready to see a real solid defense. Our assistant coaches have worked very hard, Tyrone (Nix), Coach (Ron) Cooper, Brad Lawing, and Dave Wommack. We know we want to coach. We are going to practice what we are going to use and hopefully our players will be smarter than we were last year. I mentioned this earlier, when you are watching the tape and the coaches keep saying `He made a mistake, he made a mistake, he messed up,’ that’s sorry coaching. Good coaches, their players don’t mess up and don’t make a lot of mistakes. Hopefully, we will be better coaches this year.”
On the running backs
“Mike (Davis) is ready to go. Cory Boyd is ready. We have some good fullbacks in there too. Clark Gaston, a true freshman, I think he is going to play well. Lanard Stafford is in there. He’s a good blocking guy. Lanard is really a good success story. He’s kind of one of my favorite guys (here at South Carolina). When I first got here I remember we were over in the indoor facility there for winter conditioning, I remember saying, `Who is that short, little round guy back there.’ Rick Stockstill said, `I don’t know his name, everyone calls him Short & Round.’ That was his nickname. I found out his name, I said, `Lanard are you getting to play any on defense?’ He was a fifth string nose tackle. I said how bout coming on and playing fullback. He was about 265 (pounds) then, earned a scholarship through spring practice and now he runs with the tailbacks. He can make all the runs at about 230-235 (pounds). I wish everybody had his commitment level. We are proud of guys like him.”
On the quarterbacks
“We expect Blake (Mitchell) to play better. He had a lot of good plays last year and a lot of bad plays. Obviously, decision-making is crucial for quarterbacks. You have to know where to throw it, when to throw it, when not to throw it, when not to throw it away; there are about five to eight things to think about in every snap. A lot of the real smart ones and big-time quarterbacks make real smart decisions. (Blake) has the ability to do it, hopefully he can get to that level. Cade Thompson and Chris Smelley are there as well. I think Chris is trying to learn our offense pretty well so I’m anxious to see how much he knows.”
On Blake Mitchell’s season last year
“I thought his play through the year was pretty consistent. I didn’t think he trailed off at all through the year. He had an excellent first half against Missouri and you know the second half, not some good plays, and really the whole team, in the second half. The whole team was bad in the second half, coaches too.”
On the wide receivers
“We are excited about Moe Brown, kid from Anderson (S.C.) and is trying to learn the offense already from what I hear. I hear he picks things up. Blake and him go out and throw and he told me, `That kid is fast coach.’ We think he can help us. Mike West, who played defense last year, is over at offense. Whether or not he is a wide receiver, we are going to find out. We know he is an excellent blocker and wide receivers do block. Mike West is going to play a lot. He’s one of the fastest guys on the team and so we are looking to see what he can do.”
More on the running backs
“Bobby (Wallace) is here. I don’t know how all three are going to carry the ball (Davis, Boyd, Wallace) but we will see. Hopefully he can get involved with kickoff returns and some other things. Shoot, Taylor Rank could be a star before this is over. We don’t know. He’s a strong, young man and a good runner with the ball and he is ready to go this year. Don’t forget about him.”
On whether or not he likes starting off the season with a conference game
“It doesn’t matter. It’s a good game, a very important game, as we all know. Our schedule this year, if we are fortunate to do well in the first two games, our schedule sets up for us to have a chance to have a real good year. Mississippi State game is very crucial for us and I can’t emphasize enough what a good team they are. Although most people in the country don’t think they are very good, their defense, like I said (earlier), Alabama that offense that went up and down the field against us scored three points against them last year and the Alabama defense scored 14. They have big, strong guys, as good a defensive line as anybody in the conference. We have to play smart, our defense has to play well and hopefully play one of our better games if we are going to beat those guys.”
On opening the season on ESPN on Thursday night for the second straight year
“We appreciate ESPN putting us on Thursday night opening up college football again. We have Auburn also on Thursday night at home. We need to be ready to play early, that’s what we are trying to say. None of that `Oh we will get a lot better from the first to second game.’ I think we will be ready to play because we know what we need to work on before the first game.”
On wide receiver Sidney Rice and preseason recognition
“I think he’s handled it well. He’s doing well, he hangs out with his teammates. He’s been doing just about all of the (voluntary) workouts and seems to have a wonderful team attitude. He’s appreciative; I think he realizes he was in the right place at the right time last year. He was certainly our best receiver (last year). Where he can improve is what I think he has done and that is increasing his speed with off-season conditioning. He has the hands and good feet. He was an excellent basketball player, excellent basketball players who can run fast is what you are looking for in a wide receiver. He is around 4.5 or so in his 40-time.
On running back Cory Boyd
“He’s had some things happen to him. His mom passed away this summer and he had a little down time there. He has come back strongly and he’s through feeling sorry for himself. We all sometimes go through that period. He’s been an excellent leader through the last month or so. He has given a good effort and he has that ability that we need. He is an older player who I can tell you right now is one of our leaders.