South Carolina Football: How Long Does Steve Spurrier Have at Helm?

Michael WillhoftContributor IIINovember 13, 2011

South Carolina Football: How Long Does Steve Spurrier Have at Helm?

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    South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier will be the first to admit that things haven’t gone according to plan for his team this season. Preseason polls projected South Carolina to win the SEC East relatively easily, but the team will likely finish second in the division to the Georgia Bulldogs at season’s end.

    Considering that the Gamecocks are a completely different team now from the one that started the season, second place is still a notable accomplishment.

    South Carolina lost starting quarterback Stephen Garcia to suspension, starting running back—and preseason Heisman Trophy hopeful—Marcus Lattimore to injury and has had to rely on their defense to win games.

    The Gamecocks aren’t the offensive juggernaut they were expected to be, but that hasn’t prevented them from putting together a respectable season.

    Much of the team’s success can be credited to Spurrier’s abilities as a coach. Given what he had to work with, the Ol’ Ball Coach has shown once again why he’s one of college football’s best.

    I highly doubt that the South Carolina athletic department is calling for Spurrier’s removal as the program’s head coach, despite the Gamecocks’ (likely) failure to win the SEC East after all the preseason hype.

    Besides, if Georgia somehow loses to Kentucky next week, South Carolina can still backdoor its way into the SEC Championship game by virtue of the Week 2 win over the Bulldogs.

    The SEC is a tough conference; winning games—and to some degree, winning titles—is the measure by which coaches are judged. Spurrier probably won’t win a division title this season, but he’s got nothing to worry about in terms of being replaced as the head coach of the Gamecocks.

    Here’s why Steve Spurrier deserves to coach at South Carolina for as long as he’s able.

High Expectations

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    The hype surrounding the South Carolina Gamecocks for the 2011 season was something that hadn’t been seen in Columbia, SC since the program was established in 1892.

    Credit Steve Spurrier for bringing a level of excitement never before felt to Gamecocks football this year.

    Although the SEC East is considered the weaker of the two SEC divisions, that doesn’t take away from what South Carolina was expected to do this season. Coming off last year’s SEC East title, there were high hopes for this year’s team.

    If you had told a South Carolina fan five years ago that the Gamecocks would soon be expected to contend for an SEC Championship on a yearly basis, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.

    The leadership Spurrier has brought to the program is the driving force behind the USC hype machine. And although an SEC East title might be out of reach this year, the Gamecocks were expected to be in first place; the bar for South Carolina football success has definitely been raised.

Suspensions & Injuries

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    Steve Spurrier has made the best of a difficult situation this season. Two of his three big-time players are currently not on the field for South Carolina, but Spurrier hasn’t allowed his team to falter.

    On any team, the impact players on offense are the quarterback, the running back and the wide receiver. For the Gamecocks, a suspension to senior quarterback Stephen Garcia and a season-ending injury to star running back Marcus Lattimore have combined to remove the explosive element from their offense.

    Spurrier has had to adjust his coaching strategy to make use of his backup quarterback and running back. Not many coaches would have their team in contention for a division title after losing arguably two of their three best offensive players.

    South Carolina certainly hasn’t been winning games with their offense since the losses of Garcia and Lattimore. Instead, they’ve been relying on defense and a more conservative—or “ugly” depending on your point of view—style of football to win.

    Spurrier’s ability to shift gears when it comes to game planning without key offensive players this season has earned him immense credibility. (Not that he didn’t have it already or anything.)

Building a Program

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    South Carolina has never been considered a perennial football power, but with the arrival of Steve Spurrier as head coach in 2005 the perception of the Gamecocks has started to change.

    No longer is South Carolina an easy game on any team’s schedule; Spurrier has slowly built USC into a strong football program since taking over.

    Besides his abilities as a strategist and in-game coach, Spurrier is known for his recruiting skills as well. The Ol’ Ball Coach has brought in a steady stream of 4- and 5-star recruits to ensure that each subsequent USC team is as strong as the last.

    That’s how you build a program.

    The crown jewel of Spurrier’s recruiting efforts has already made his presence felt on the field at the collegiate level. As a true freshman this season, DE Jadeveon Clowney has recorded the following statistics: 29 TOT/5 sacks/2 FF.

    Did I mention that Clowney was the number one rated player in the country coming out of high school? Not just the number one rated defensive end, but the No. 1 rated player at any position.

    It seems like Spurrier still knows what he’s doing when it comes to replenishing his roster.

Strong Résumé

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    Steve Spurrier’s coaching accolades speak for themselves: one BCS national title, one ACC title, six SEC titles, eight SEC East division titles, two ACC Coach of the Year awards and seven SEC Coach of the Year awards.

    A résumé like that should earn Spurrier lifetime collegiate coaching rights.

    At South Carolina, Spurrier should continue to add to his laundry list of coaching accomplishments. Now that he’s established the Gamecocks as an SEC East contender, Spurrier can basically write his own contract to remain head coach at USC.

    If past performance is any indicator of future results, South Carolina is in good hands as long as Spurrier remains at the helm. He has a proven track record of improving collegiate programs—see his work at both Duke and Florida for references.

South Carolina’s Future

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    This season is by no means a failure, but the future already looks bright for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

    Steve Spurrier has already secured verbal commitments from seven different 4-star high school recruits, most of which are on the offensive side of the ball. Of those 4-star recruits, two are listed in the Under Armor Top 150 national recruiting rankings.

    With Spurrier at the controls of the offense, you can be sure that South Carolina is preparing itself to be a point-scoring machine in the coming years.

    Add Marcus Lattimore to the mix—coming off the knee injury and intent on returning to Heisman form—and the Gamecocks shouldn’t have any worries about the offense next season.

    Spurrier has imparted his brand of football on South Carolina’s program. His knowledge of coaching at the collegiate level has offered the Gamecocks the opportunity to build a perennial SEC East power as long as Spurrier is allowed to run the show.

    Spurrier deserves much of the credit for getting USC to where it is today. Without him, the Gamecocks might still be wallowing in the SEC basement.