Spurrier's Got That Twinkle

South Carolina could be on verge of breaking through

Aug. 3, 2007

By Trev Alberts

Special to CSTV.com



Trev Alberts is a football analyst for CSTV and CSTV.com.
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You've got college football questions and CSTV football analyst Trev Alberts has answers and opinions. Each week Alberts will be answering questions and queries on the world of college football. So if you've got a question for Trev, just ask him.


Given the huge momentum that came with the Liberty Bowl victory less than seven months ago, do you think that the loss of Sydney Rice, and off-the-field issues with South Carolina players will diminish the bright outlook for year No. 3 of the Spurrier era?  They still have lots of solid contributors back, an aggressive and experienced defense, and should get some immediate help from their best recruiting class ever.  I think a No. 4 (finish) prediction in the SEC East is going to prove to be wrong...what do you think? - Scott Moore, Franklin, Tenn.




I would agree. I think there will be a marked difference in this year's South Carolina team than you've seen in the past. I think we've already seen some pretty good improvement. I think Blake Mitchell is going to take his game to the next level. And I think most importantly - and this is so often missed - the game of football is really all about confidence. Yes, the game is played by great athletes, and that's important. But on any give Saturday - or in modern football, any given Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday - when you go out on the field and think you can win, then you have a pretty good chance of winning. And that sounds so simplistic.

When I was at Nebraska we won a lot of games just by walking out on the field. We expected to win. And what happens at programs that have struggled, the hardest part isn't the talent gap, although that's obviously part of it. No, the hardest part is to get the guys to actually believe they're going to win. I never at Nebraska thought that we were going to lose. It never crossed my mind.


I watched Steve Spurrier at the SEC Media Day and he had that twinkle in his eye when he said, "Fellas, we have a chance." When he was at Florida and made all those comments about Tennessee and that you can't spell Citrus without a U and a T, he said those brash and semi-arrogant comments when he knew he had a good team. You didn't see that same confidence in his first few years because he had some question marks.


I see a different Steve Spurrier because he knows he's not going to win the national championship, but if things fall right, he has a team that can compete and potentially win the SEC East. And it starts with defense. We often think about Spurrier and his offense, but he won championships with his defense. He's got a completely overlooked and underestimated defense and he feels he has some weapons on offense.


Remember back in 1999 that an Oklahoma team came off a loss to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl the year before and went undefeated the next season. I'm not predicting this for South Carolina, but who would have thought the Sooners would do that. In modern football, huge swings can happen from year to year, one way or the other.


I don't think it's a matter of USC being so much better than every other team in the country. It's a lack of competition... They would still compete well in any conference, that's a given. But I defiantly don't think we'd be seeing six losses in four years if they were in the SEC. Any comments? - Chris Fidoe


I think that's fair. Pete Carroll would be the first one to tell you that if he had to play in the SEC, on a consistent basis, his record might be different. However, I'd like to point out the following:


Remember that USC team, coming off the loss of a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback named Carson Palmer, had no known quarterback - just some guy named Matt Leinart who had never played before. They walked into Jordan-Hare in the first game of the year, one of the more difficult environments, and soundly defeated the Auburn Tigers.


I think their dominance in the Pac-10 leads some to believe that the Pac-10 is terrible. I don't think that's true. Remember, USC lost twice to teams in the conference last year and they throttled Michigan in the Rose Bowl. I think the Pac-10 is better than people think. Clearly the SEC is the best conference. But would it be unfair to say the Pac-10 is second? I don't think so.


What makes you believe that this is a "rebuilding year of sorts" for Penn State?  What is your basis for calling it a rebuilding year?  Are Wisconsin, Iowa and OSU in rebuilding years too or are they just "reloading"?  Enlighten me, please. - Mike Mays


If I referred to Penn State as being in a "rebuilding year," then I was clearly mistaken.


It's not my opinion they're in a rebuilding year when you have Anthony Morelli and Austin Scott, a highly heralded player. I think they could be the surprise team in the Big Ten. I think Penn State should be in the conversation. I think they're continuing to build and they've upgraded their talent - they're not without their holes and questions, though. Their schemes have been better, spreading things out and being more creative on offense. I'm sorry if I intimated that Penn State is in a rebuilding mode. I'm sure that that it was Brian Jones who you got me confused with.