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Steve Spurrier Should Be Remembered as Greatest Player's Coach in NCAA History

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Steve Spurrier Should Be Remembered as Greatest Player's Coach in NCAA History
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"I think the days of a coach talking a kid into staying are not smart."

Those were the words of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, earlier this month, when asked how he approaches players who are considering jumping to the NFL early.

In fact, Spurrier is even preemptively issuing tickets for his current players to play on Sundays.

According to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com, the Head Ball Coach is already preparing for life after Mike Davis, as the star junior running back for the Gamecocks prepares to help the program build on three straight 11-win seasons.

RAINIER EHRHARDT/Associated Press
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier

"Mike Davis, if he has a big year, he's going to go pro," Spurrier said last week. "And we're going to tell him to go pro, because he should. The lifespan of a running back is only a certain amount of years. If a young man after three years can go, we're going to shake his hand and let him go."

Not exactly the most shocking news. After all, Davis did rush for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, helping the Gamecocks post their third straight 11-win season.

It is, however, a nice compliment to a player that his coach is already assuming that he's going to jump for the NFL even before he takes the field for his junior campaign. It builds a brand for the individual and the program, which is huge for both parties.

The goal for coaches is to win, and the easiest way to do that is with good players. Good players often get the chance to jump to the NFL early, which is something Spurrier urges if and when it's appropriate.

RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier

He even did so last year with star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who had the skills to jump to the NFL pretty much whenever he wanted, but he had to wait until he was three years removed from high school.

"He did not even have to play last year at the University of South Carolina," Spurrier said at SEC Media Days earlier this month. "A lot of people advised him to sit out the season. Why risk injury if $22 million-plus is waiting for you? He wanted to play, come back and help his team. He played three years, and we won 33 games. Best three years in the history of the school. We appreciate what he did there."

He even publicly apologized to Clowney in the middle of last season, after a miscommunication of his status for the Kentucky game—a game Clowney sat out with a rib injury. Not many coaches would do that.

Danny Johnston/Associated Press
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier

Success builds off success, and that's something Spurrier embraces.

It doesn't stop there, though.

Spurrier even blames himself when only four Gamecocks were named to the three-deep preseason All-SEC team.

While he oftentimes downplays the importance of "talkin' season" from a team perspective, he knows how important it is for his players. The ones we talk about for the nine months of the offseason are the ones who get the most publicity early, which makes it much easier for them to make names for themselves if they shine.

He's the ultimate player's coach, so much so that he famously gave former quarterback Stephen Garcia five chances before ultimately letting him go.

A stretch? Maybe in Garcia's case, but Spurrier always seem willing to dole out tough love before showing players the door.

Sure, there are always issues. He played musical quarterbacks at Florida, but that was more due to the talent at the position and the need to go with the hot hand than anything else. It created competition and pushed each of them to play better, and many of those quarterbacks parlayed that into NFL careers.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Spurrier gets it, as do many other coaches in the SEC including Alabama's Nick Saban.

"My philosophy is, look, I'm not disappointed in any players," Saban said. "When they make the decision to go do what they're going to do, we're 100 percent supportive of them and we want to see them do well. That benefits them, it benefits us. It's what we're all about, all right?"

It is. 

But Spurrier goes to bat more for his stars more than others. When everybody on the planet was fawning over former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, former Texas A&M signal-caller Johnny Manziel and the rest of the last year's talented cast at quarterback, Spurrier hyped Connor Shaw.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier (left) and former QB Connor Shaw

“He is the most underrated,” Spurrier said according to Josh Kendall of The State. “Every time they mention these guys, they don’t even talk about him, and I don’t know why. He runs; he throws; he makes first downs for us with his legs at times.”

He fights the PR battle more often and better than most, which is something that benefits the player and program. At South Carolina, he knows it's a little more of a task than it was at Florida, when he was busy basking in the glow of six SEC titles, one national championship and the eyeballs of the nation firmly entrenched on Gainesville.

Spurrier is second-to-none in terms of making a splash in the media for his players when it's appropriate. He's the ultimate "player's coach."

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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