HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) – It happens every year. South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier walks into the main media room at SEC Media Days and drops knowledge, jokes and lightens the entire mood.
Tuesday was no different.
Spurrier held court with reporters for a large amount of time, beginning his press conference by addressing some of the many issues discussed amongst coaches during the SEC’s spring meetings in Destin at the end of May.
“We came up with a proposal, I know the Commissioner has his proposals, but we would like for our college football and basketball players that bring in an enormous amount of money — $1 billion in March Madness this year — football, we all know the numbers. We believe those two sports, the income producers, those players, most of them come from lower-income families, that we should provide some expense money so their parents can go to the games, lodging, travel, meals,” Spurrier said.
That idea, while not new by any stretch of the imagination, was not what many expected to hear out of Spurrier’s opening statements. But that wasn’t where he stopped. Spurrier said the coaches voted unanimously about the proposal, but he insists it isn’t a pay-for-play system.
“This is not pay-for-play… This is just expense money. I saw the other day this year, the NFL rookies, the minimum is $405,000 [for an] NFL rookie,” Spurrier explained. “And a third-year kid, $630,000. That’s pay-for-play. Don’t disguise or say $300 for expenses for a game, that’s not pay-for-play. Just some expense money for our guys to live a little bit better, and their parents, guardians, whatever.”
Economics was not the only topic Spurrier discussed, though. After all, his Gamecocks are coming off a successful 11-2 season that ended with a drubbing of Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Seven starters return to a South Carolina offense that featured two 1,000 yard passers, senior Connor Shaw and junior Dylan Thompson.
“I think they’re both very good players and capable. Whether or not we’re going to play both of ‘em and how we do it, I don’t know,” Spurrier said of Shaw and Thompson. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out. They’re both capable. They both like playing. They both like each other. I think they’re roommates and all that. Hopefully they’ve got confidence in the coach putting them in and out. Hopefully it’s going to work out.”
Defensively, the Gamecocks return only five starters. However, they are not lacking in talent. One of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy, Jadeveon Clowney, returns as a junior and one of the most feared players in all of football.
Clowney finished the 2012 season fifth on the team in tackles with 54, but he led the team in sacks with 13.
“Jadeveon Clowney is a disruptive player that every offense has to sort of change their blocking assignments to account for Jadeveon. He’s a very good player,” Spurrier said of the Preseason All-American. “I think he told me he ran a 4.4 [40-yard dash] the other day at the end of the summer workouts. He’s ready to go. If we’re going to have a good year, Jadeveon has to make a lot of those big plays. He’s made a lot of big ones the first two years at South Carolina.”
One of those big plays, one that’s ingrained in the memory of most college football fans, came during South Carolina’s bowl game against Michigan. Clowney burst through the line of scrimmage and met then ball carrier, Michigan’s Vincent Smith, in the backfield. His hit jarred the ball loose, and Clowney simply reached out and picked it up. The hit become an internet hit seemingly overnight, and Clowney said it didn’t take long for him to realize people were noticing his monstrous tackle and fumble recovery.
“They posted it on ESPN over and over and over, and I was like, ‘I know it was a big hit now.’ The video was big,” Clowney joked.“People always come up and tell me about the hit, and I just get a laugh out of it.”
The Gamecocks are picked by many to be near the top of the SEC East, but just as was the case in 2012, only a few things have to change throughout the course of a season for a team to find themselves atop the standings. A win in week two at Georgia would put Spurrier’s squad firmly in control of its own destiny in the division.
A relatively favorable conference schedule the rest of the way would set the Gamecocks up for a chance to return to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2010.
“We know we’re not favored to win it, but we think we’re going to have a team capable, capable if everything works out, some guys really come around and we get a break or two,” Spurrier said. “That’s something we’ve not done at South Carolina, is won a conference championship, and we have hopes to do it.
“We’re going to try our best to see if we can make it happen this year. It won’t be easy, of course. We may fall flat on our face, but that’s what we’re going to try to do — try to win the conference.”
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