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Spurrier trying to build a winner with Gamecocks

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Spurrier trying to build a winner with Gamecocks

By Josh Kendall


It's not much of a recruiting pitch, but it's all Steve Spurrier has.

"Trying to make South Carolina a winner is a challenge," Spurrier said. "It's fun. We can tell recruits, 'You've got a chance to come here and do something that's never been done before in the history of the school. If you go to Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, they've already won SECs. You can come here and do it the first time ever.' "

In his second season with the Gamecocks, Spurrier isn't yet considered a serious contender for the conference title, but he's getting closer.

"Hopefully, someday I can tell you we have a team that is ready to challenge for the SEC," he said. "We're not quite in that position right now, but hopefully after another one or two recruiting classes, these guys growing up, becoming ballplayers, we'll be in that position."

South Carolina will at least be a dangerous spoiler, however, as it was last year in beating Florida 30-22 to keep the Gators out of the SEC Championship game. The Gamecocks finished 7-5 and also beat Tennessee.

"It was a great season for us," senior cornerback Fred Bennett said. "Coach came in and did a great job for us. He brought a lot of motivation to the team. It was very contagious, and he got everybody to believe."

South Carolina returns 10 starters, including six on Spurrier's beloved offense. That group includes sensational sophomore receiver Sidney Rice, who led the league in touchdowns last year (14), and two solid contributors in quarterback Blake Mitchell and tailback Mike Davis. Rice has been named a second-team preseason All-American by several national magazines after ranking fifth in the country in receiving yards per game (103.9) last year.

"Everybody knows Sidney now," Spurrier said. "Wherever No. 4 goes, there's going to be a bunch of guys hanging around. He's a big-time talent."

Even with Rice, South Carolina finished ninth in the league and 100th in the nation in total offense (315.9 yards per game) last year. Spurrier is starting this season like he ended last year, griping about his offense's poor time of possession. The Gamecocks averaged 60 plays per game last year, the fewest in the SEC.

"We've got to find a way to stop the other team quicker and then stay out there longer offensively, also," Spurrier said.

The key to that lies in two statistics: third down conversions and opponents third down conversions. South Carolina made a first down on just 33.8 percent of its third downs (10th in the league) and allowed opponents to convert 41.4 percent of the time (also 10th in the league).

"Maybe it's because we didn't run the ball very well and we didn't stop the run," Spurrier said. "Usually, that's a bad two things to have going for your team."

Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix is in complete control of the defense this year, after sharing the duties with John Thompson most of last season.

How close the Gamecocks are to their first SEC title will be clear early in the season. They play the first conference game of the season, Aug. 31 at Mississippi State and then host Georgia on Sept. 9.

"I'm glad that we have that (schedule)," Davis said. "It's good to jump right into the conference and build momentum early in the season. You can't slack off."

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I'm interested... whats Tuberville's all-time record vs Spurrier? I'm thinking the results are gonna be suprising.

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