Steve Spurrier Lighting the Fire Under South Carolina Gamecocks
All the credit for this fire doesn't go to Spurrier, it goes to Spurrier's entire coaching staff. After the Gamecocks lost to Auburn last Saturday night, the coaching staff, almost to a man, has taken it upon themselves to get this group of fighting Gamecock fired up.
The offensive line has been critiqued, bashed, second guessed and blamed for what seems like forever, but is actually about the last three plus seasons at South Carolina. New offensive line coach Shawn Elliott wasn't happy with his group following the Auburn game, but it was the Head Ball Coach who went out and basically called out the offensive linemen, and the team as a whole.
Of the offensive line Spurrier commented, "We're stuck with what we've got." He also said that in speaking with one of the linemen, "I told one of our guys today, 'We're not benching you.'" Spurrier is finding a fire that at least seems like it's been lost for some time.
Spurrier didn't let up. "Our line looks pretty good running out there. They look pretty good and then the ball is snapped and sometimes we just don't compete hard enough. But they're our guys and we're going to try to get them to play better. Hopefully we can. We'll keep trying."
Coach Elliott responded, "First of all, he's not calling my guys out, he's calling our guys out. These guys play for the Gamecocks. Last time I checked, we're all in this together. Everybody has to step up and play better. Everyone does. It doesn't matter who it is, offensive linemen or someone else. It's not my guys or his guys. It's our guys. Sure, we have to play better. It's my job to get them coached up better."
Nobody in this situation seems to be shrugging off responsibility. Spurrier squashed any possibility of a quarterback controversy. Stephen Garcia is the Gamecocks starting quarterback. He gives the Gamecocks the best chance win. Aside from the two fumbles in the Auburn game, Garcia is playing the best football he has at South Carolina.
Garcia and Spurrier have also both commented that Garcia's running style must change. With Spurrier saying he can't continue to let Garcia run like he does for health reasons (being that Garcia ducks his head when he runs) and Garcia has admitted that it's time for him to protect the ball, and get down and avoid potential big hits and fumbles.
Garcia also has the confidence of his teammates, something that Connor Shaw will have to earn over time. Garcia stated,"I've talked to all the guys on the team since the game and they've got my back. We're going to be just fine. We have a nice bye week to get ready for Alabama and we'll be prepared for them."
Spurrier and Garcia have long had a rivalry of sorts. The old school quarterback against the new age quarterback. The pure passer and the runner. The coach of the team and the leader of the team. The two have to work together for the team to win, and whatever differences they have or have had, they need to put aside. Spurrier has also called into question just how badly his team wants to win.
"When losing begins to hurt these guys as much as it hurts some of us, we'll have a good team here at South Carolina," Spurrier said, and continued, "But I'm not convinced losing hurts these guys much, or they'd play better. They would really play their assignments and play better. They're either not smart enough to play or losing doesn't hurt. One or the other, because they're big, strong guys."
One complaint against Spurrier has been that he seems disconnected at times. While some will fly to the defense of the players and be unhappy with Spurrier's comments, I will stand by the Ol' Ball Coach, who is now showing flashes of the man who won what seemed like forty SEC Championships at Florida, though in reality it was six, and a National Championship.
Spurrier sees that he has talent on this team. Even the most talented individuals need motivation. Spurrier has laid a challenge down to his team. They can answer, or they can show that Spurrier was right in that they aren't smart enough, or losing doesn't hurt. Those are the types of comments that must be responded to.
The Gamecocks defense has been working to shore up the middle of their defense for the currently number one ranked Crimson Tide who come into Columbia on October 9. Players missed assignments and admitted it. After Tuesday's practice following the Auburn game several players and coaches were cleared to speak with the media.
One thing that was taken from the coaches is the fact that Chris Culliver, who sat out the first game of the year, and has had issues with his attitude, and tackling has been told if he gets another personal foul he will sit on the bench. He has been put on notice, because too many times he has cost the team yards in pivotal situations, none more than the Auburn game.
While several Gamecock players spoke, three comments stuck out. Defensive lineman Ladi Ajiboye said, "We was a little bit too hyped for the game. All this media and all this TV got in our head, and we wasn't playing real ball out there. We just didn't fill up the gaps, and we wasn't prepared for what they had, and they brought their A game and we didn't. We didn't play to the full of our potential, and that's our fault."
Free safety Akeem Auguste said when being asked if film study was pleasant, "Of course not, everybody had a whole bunch of missed assignments, a lot of bad things went wrong on tape." When Auguste was asked how the Gamecocks could improve, "I don't know, man, honestly, everybody didn't come ready to play. Got to play tough. Get in everybody's face a lot more."
Linebacker Rodney Paulk had a pretty simple solution to what would help the Gamecocks, "Practice. We got to get ourselves situated for Alabama. We'll continue to keep on working, because we've been poor in the past, but we'll continue to get better."
This seems to be a good sign for Gamecock fans. As long as the Gamecocks are upset, but not shell shocked, they can correct the mistakes. The top ranked Tide roll into Columbia in one week, and if the Gamecocks aren't ready to play it won't be pretty, but if they are anything could happen.
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