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Sept. 21, 2010

Coach Spurrier
Stephon Gilmore
Tori Gurley

Head Coach Steve Spurrier met with the media Tuesday afternoon to preview Saturday’s SEC game against Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Gamecocks and Tigers will kick off at 7:40 p.m. on ESPN.

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier
Opening Statement

First, I want to offer our condolences and sympathy to Kenny McKinley’s family. This is a tragic loss for all Gamecocks, especially his teammates and coaches that knew him well. Our players will hopefully do our grieving here the next day or so, and we’ll remember Kenny for the good times. It’s hard for us to comprehend how this all happened. We’ll handle the best way we can here the next day or two.

We’re looking forward to the game with Auburn Saturday night – a national TV game. A big game for us to see if we can go on the road and beat a really good team. They’ve been very successful this year. They closed with a good victory in the Outback Bowl last year. They have a lot of momentum going, a big crowd and it should be a loud and exciting game.

On Auburn’s defense
They play a lot of coverages. They disguise them all very well. They mix their man-to-man zones in there. Clemson ran the ball a little the first half, but (Auburn) shut them down good there in the second half. We’re more of a running team than a passing team so we’ll try to mix it up and see if we can get a little bit better blocking. We had some not good blocking last game. They’re a good defensive team. They have good athletes and are a well-coached team. It will be a challenge for our quarterbacks and offensive line and so forth.

On the importance of people knowing how players are off the field
As a team it’s important. It’s important that our players are known to do goodwill work in the community as far as visiting schools and hospitals and so forth. I think our guys do a good job with that.

On why the team seems to be more run-oriented
You have to do what you do best to try and win the game. We’re not as good throwing as we have been running, but we throw successfully at times. I shouldn’t say that we’re completely a running team … We’ll try to take care of the ball better when we are throwing and give ourselves the best chance without the big mistakes that we had last week.

On another receiver stepping up beside Alshon Jeffery
We were sitting in there talking a few minutes ago that with Alshon, you have to figure the other teams will start putting two guys on him. We need to get other receivers involved. Tori Gurley caught a few last week. We need to get more of the other guys involved. We need to complete more passes. Again, we’ve been winning so we’re not going to throw them just for the sake of throwing more passes. We need to do what we think gives us the best chance to bet the opponent. We have good running backs in Marcus (Lattimore), Kenny (Miles) and Brian (Maddox). Brian and Kenny haven’t had many carries yet. In football there’s only one ball out there every play. As coaches you try to utilize your players to best win the game. Everyone can’t be the star player every week. It goes around a little bit.

On the quarterbacks
They’re doing OK. Everybody’s doing OK. We just haven’t been a great passing team. We’re not in the bottom of the league in passing. We’re in the middle I think right now. What we’re doing well is scoring in the red zone and making a bunch of third downs. We haven’t always been that good in those areas, and those are your crucial areas. Our quarterbacks have been good scramblers and made a bunch of those third downs.

We’ve got two quarterbacks we think can play well. We’re going into the ballpark with two ready to play. I’ll say Connor (Shaw) will play some this week. I thought he’d play against Georgia, but we got into a running game. I’ll tell you, Stephen (Garcia) has been good grabbing those bad snaps. Connor’s been good too. We have to continue working with T.J. on his snaps because it’s difficult when you get that low left one then have to try to look at the defense. We probably had better pass protection against Georgia then we did against Furman. It’s difficult for the quarterbacks back there when that happens. We have both ready to play. Connor will see some action somewhere.

On the atmosphere at Auburn
We’ve been in loud places before, although we haven’t tested our new `call the plays at the line’ (strategy) on the road yet. We haven’t used a silent count yet. Hopefully we can pick up our foot, snap it and stay onside. We’re working on our snaps. T.J. Johnson’s been throwing a bunch of low left ones that’s made it tough on the quarterbacks. We have to get that straightened out. Other than that it will be a challenge doing some things differently as far as the way our offense goes about.

On the red zone efficiency on offense and defense
The ability to run the ball down there has been helpful for our offense. Our defense has tightened up and played good run and pass defense down there. Hopefully we can keep the other team kicking field goals. If you can do that you have a lot of chances to win games. If we score touchdowns and the other team scores field goals, that’s a huge difference.

On Travian Robertson
Travian’s last two games have been very good. (Against) Southern Mississippi he didn’t have quite as many opportunities, but the last two games he’s been very good in there and dominant. He’s a big, strong guy. He’s hard to block. He’s a good run defender and he gets pressure on the quarterbacks. He’s in there a lot. He’s one of the strongest guys on the team if not the strongest, which a defensive tackle should be. It’s interesting, he came here as an outside linebacker. He came at 225 pounds. He’s good solid 280 pounds now.

On seeing Auburn play a familiar team in Clemson
I don’t know if that helps a lot. They’ll have a whole different plan for us. Usually defenses don’t quite play the same way each week. Obviously last week we struggled throwing the ball against a simple two-deep zone. We may see a lot of that, or they may say we’ll go after them. Generally all teams come to the ballpark with a plan for what the other team may do and try to adjust and have a go at it.

On quarterback play in the SEC
This year there’s a lot of new quarterbacks in the SEC. Obviously Alabama and Arkansas returned their guys. A lot of teams like us have returned their guys. Then there are a lot of new quarterbacks. The SEC defenses are tougher than most of the other conferences around the country. I think most people agree with that. When you play conference games, maybe there are not as many passing yards as you could have against the other teams.

On C.C. Whitlock’s family issues
C.C. had a tragedy in his family. A lot of people may not know that his brother was shot and killed Sunday night. He didn’t practice yesterday. He’s going through grieving and counseling also. He’s going to definitely try to play this week. He said, `I want to be with my team and play.’ Hopefully we can make that happen also.

On defending Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
Our defensive coaches can answer that. He’s a big guy, 6’6, 250 and runs a lot. Very good runner and passer. We have to stop the run first and get him throwing the ball. (We need to) hold onto him. He can shake an arm or hand tackle. You have to get a good grasp on a quarterback that’s that big, strong and elusive. He’s a good athlete back there. He may have as many rushing yards as their tailbacks, but he’s a good runner and passer. We have to slow him down definitely.

On his last game at Auburn
That was interesting. That year after we got clobbered by Alabama and Auburn, we won five in a row. How do you figure that? That wasn’t our strongest team here but we won a bunch of close teams down the stretch. Auburn has been a tough place to play for all their opponents. But we have tough place to play here as most all SEC teams do. We just have to go play. We have to line up, try to control the line of scrimmage and not get pushed around. Some of our guys got pushed around by those Furman guys (last week). I didn’t realize how tough they were until I watched the tape of some of our guys trying to block them.

On the Clemson-Auburn game
Both teams were pretty even. If Clemson hits the pass that bounced off the receiver, they win the game. They’re doing all the, `We knew this could happen.’ Whoever wins the game has the answers. Whoever looses says, `We have to get better.’ It was a game either team could have won. Clemson had chances to win but they couldn’t do it. So now Auburn has momentum going. It was two pretty even teams the way we looked at it.

On Rokevious Watkins
Rokevious practiced a little bit last night. We think he’ll be able to play. Hopefully he’ll play a lot better this game. Some of our linemen didn’t play their best last week. We expect improvement in the offensive line this week.

On if he needs to ask anything more of a defense that has performed well
Ask anything more? We finally got a defensive score. That was nice. We want some defensive scores and turnovers. We realize they played well. (On) pass defense we had some breakdowns here and there, so we don’t have all the answers right now. We all have to keep improving as we go through the season.

Our team set a lot of goals this year. This is a crucial game to try and achieve our goals.

Quotes On Kenny McKinley

On how the Kenny McKinley situation relates to Eraste Autin, former University of Florida football player under Spurrier
I’m not sure if it’s the exact same situation. Eraste was just a freshman who just got on board and passed away from something happening on campus there. Kenny’s been gone (from the program going) into his second year now. A lot of our players on our team did not know Kenny that well, but the older guys did. (Working with the team) will be more involved with the players that knew Kenny very well, trying to restore them and get their attitude the correct way when a tragedy like this occurs. This is a different type situation.

On his favorite memory of Kenny McKinley
My favorite memory is that Kenny really was the first player to commit to South Carolina (in Spurrier’s tenure), although he committed about two days before I was hired. During recruiting I asked why he committed to South Carolina and he said, “I read in the paper that they were going to hire you. I knew the ball would be in the air and I’d have a chance to play wide receiver.’ When he showed up he must have weighed 150 pounds. Skinny kid. Of course he’s the all-time leading receiver (in South Carolina history). Probably the big game was the Tennessee game of `05. We snuck in there to win 16-15. He made several third down catches. The slant and fade routes, he could run them as well as any receiver I ever coached. We compare Ace (Sanders) to Kenny as far as quickness to get out of routes and so forth. Kenny was always a wonderful team player, well-liked by everyone and never complained if he didn’t get passes.

On how the team will cope
I don’t know. We’ll have our team psychologist, Dr. Malone, come over today and team chaplain, Adrian Despres, will come over. We’ll do counseling and talking. They’ll try to answer questions that need answering to some of our players that were close to Kenny. Whatever attitude we’re supposed to have Saturday night, I hope we can get there.

On honoring Kenny McKinley
I’ll talk to the older players and see if there’s something we want to do as far as a decal on the helmet or something of that nature.

On his first reaction at hearing about Kenny McKinley
My initial reaction was something happened funny. If he wasn’t (alive), it was hard to comprehend that he’d take his own life. Of course we don’t know what caused it or exactly how it happened. It was just hard to figure out.

On seeing Kenny McKinley at the Georgia game two weeks ago
When he was here he was the happy, smiling, usual Kenny. He watched the Georgia game from my office (because of his crutches). I saw him after the game. He was his usual self. It’s hard to comprehend how that could happen.