NCF Nation: Eric Wolford
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
For a guy who revolutionized offensive football in the SEC, Steve Spurrier sure had a pedestrian offense last season at South Carolina.
And to be honest, calling it pedestrian is probably being kind. The Gamecocks just plain stunk most of the time.
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has to get the Gamecocks right on offense this year.|
On top of it all, according to Spurrier, they also had a lousy attitude.
"Some of those guys who left ... that's fine. They were ready to get on out of here," Spurrier said. "I think our attitude will be better this year. It needs to be. I know our offseason conditioning attitude has been wonderful."
Counting his strength and conditioning coach, Spurrier also has six new coaches on his staff. His offensive staff is entirely new with the exception of his son, Steve Spurrier Jr., and that's not by accident.
"Some of (the coaches) were looking around because it was suggested they do so, and we didn't try too hard to keep them," Spurrier said of the mass exodus on his staff this offseason. "Sometimes, you need to change it up."
The Gamecocks open spring practice on Tuesday afternoon with their new look and what Spurrier hopes will be a renewed commitment to bringing an SEC championship to Columbia.
"When you have a school that doesn't have great tradition like here, you have to somehow try to forget about the past," said Spurrier, who's just 15-17 against SEC foes in his first four seasons at South Carolina and has lost five or more games overall all four years.
"Watching the Arizona Cardinals play this year drives that home. They did a super job of forgetting the past, that they weren't supposed to win, and believing they could and came within one play of winning it all. We sort of see our situation like theirs."
The Cardinals did it primarily with an explosive offense, whereas the Gamecocks are coming off one of the weakest showings for a Spurrier offense since he's been a head coach.
In fact, if not for the South Carolina defense last season, who knows how ugly it could have gotten?
It's a touchy subject for the Head Ball Coach, who's quick to point out that last season was the first time the Gamecocks actually finished higher in the SEC in total defense than they did in total offense since he arrived.
"I think most people think our defense has always been better around here," Spurrier said. "But in actuality, last year was the first year they ranked ahead of the offense. Hopefully, they're going to rank ahead of the offense again and our offense improves a lot. If that happens, then you've probably got a good team."
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Quarterback Stephen Garcia needs to prove he can bring the Gamecocks to the next level.|
One thing Spurrier is committed to doing this season is incorporating more spread offense to better fit Garcia's style. But that also doesn't mean that Spurrier wants to see Garcia take off and run every time he feels pressure.
"Hopefully, Stephen Garcia can learn how to play the game," Spurrier said. "He's going to go through his first spring practice here. He got kicked out of the other two and got kicked out of both summer workouts. He's scheduled to make his first complete spring and first complete summer workouts with the guys.
"So, hopefully, he will be a lot more ready to play next year."
Much of that is on Garcia becoming a more devoted student of the game and becoming a stronger leader as he approaches his sophomore season. Nobody's ever doubted his physical tools.
But when we last saw him, he was busy turning the ball over on four of the Gamecocks' first five possessions in their Outback Bowl loss to Iowa. So he doesn't exactly come into the spring riding a wave of momentum.
"We've got to play better around Stephen, too," Spurrier said. "We have to make the plays that win games in this league, and we have to coach them better."
One of the biggest changes Spurrier made to his staff was bringing in Eric Wolford to coach the offensive line and serve as running game coordinator. Wolford's going to also play a big role in setting up the offense.
Last season, the Gamecocks were the only team in the SEC that didn't average at least 100 yards per game in rushing offense. They also gave up 39 sacks. Arkansas was the only SEC team that allowed more (45).
Clearly, there was an edge and a toughness that the South Carolina offensive line was missing last season.
Replacing Kenny McKinley at receiver will also be a chore. He's the Gamecocks' all-time leader in catches and receiving yards and made a bunch of key plays for them the last two years.
Joe Hills and Jason Barnes both showed promise last season as redshirt freshmen, but their roles will increase dramatically in 2009. The same goes for tight end Weslye Saunders now that Jared Cook is gone. When touted freshman receiver Alshon Jeffrey gets on campus this summer, he'll also get a chance right away to show what he can do.
The Gamecocks sorely lacked a breakaway threat at running back in 2008, but they hope they've filled that void with freshman Jarvis Giles, who enrolled early and will go through spring practice.
"We have a lot of good players here," Spurrier said. "I told our guys the other day, 'If our recruiting is ranked as high as sixth one year and 12th two years later, that means we're supposed to finish in the Top 10 in the country, fellas. That means we've got some ball players here, so let's try to eliminate the excuses and see if we can't mentally believe that we can go win a championship.' "
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Purdue's hiring of defensive coordinator Donn Landholm on Monday likely marks the end to the major coaching moves in the Big Ten this year.
There have been no head-coaching changes -- Danny Hope was named Purdue's head coach-in-waiting last year -- and unless Iowa's Kirk Ferentz bolts for the Kansas City Chiefs, which isn't likely, all 11 teams will have continuity on top. But there were several key changes among coordinators and key position coaches.
Here's a summary.
Offensive coordinator: Mike Locksley left to become New Mexico's head coach. Illinois hired TCU offensive coordinator Mike Schultz as his replacement.
Defensive line: Ron Zook fired Tom Sims and hired Cincinnati's Keith Gilmore.
Offensive line: Eric Wolford left for the same post at South Carolina, and Zook hired Houston's Joe Gilbert as his replacement.
Notes: Arguably Illinois' biggest coaching move was one that didn't happen. Zook offered Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson the chance to be Illinois' defensive coordinator, but the ace recruiter opted to stay at State College.
Notes: Despite a 3-9 season that saw regression on both sides of the ball, head coach Bill Lynch said he didn't expect to make any staff changes for 2009.
Notes: Ferentz is being mentioned as a candidate for the Chiefs' head-coaching vacancy because of his ties to new general manager Scott Pioli, but it appears likely he will remain at Iowa for an 11th season. He will hold a signing day news conference scheduled for Feb. 4 and has talked with athletic director Gary Barta about a contract extension.
Defensive coordinator: Scott Shafer resigned and later took the same job at Syracuse. Michigan hired former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson as Shafer's replacement.
Notes: Head coach Rich Rodriguez took his time with the search, and Robinson actually reached out to him about the defensive coordinator vacancy.
Notes: Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was in the mix for several head-coaching spots (Miami University, Boston College) but will stay put for 2009.
Offensive coordinator: Mike Dunbar resigned Jan. 6 to pursue other professional opportunities. Minnesota hired former Denver Broncos wide receivers coach Jedd Fisch as Dunbar's replacement.
Defensive coordinator: Ted Roof resigned Jan. 6 to take the same post at Auburn. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster hired former Nebraska and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, who will share coordinator duties with defensive backs coach Ron Lee.
Notes: Fisch will call the offensive plays, but he must collaborate with Tim Davis, the team's new offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Davis, who replaces Phil Meyer, was hired in late November to transform Minnesota's run game and return the team to its roots as a dominant rushing attack.
Offensive line: Bret Ingalls left for the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald told me he's not concerned about naming a replacement until after signing day, but indications are Adam Cushing, the H-backs coach and recruiting coordinator, will be promoted to line coach.
Notes: Athletic director Jim Phillips wants to work out a contract extension for Fitzgerald and likely will announce one in the coming weeks or months.
Notes: Some expected offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman to get the axe, and while it still could happen, head coach Jim Tressel is the primary playcaller and responsible for the unit's success. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell was mentioned as a candidate for the head-coaching vacancy at Bowling Green.
Notes: Penn State retained Larry Johnson despite Illinois offering more money and a coordinator position. Longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley also remains despite some rumors that he was a candidate for the top job at Syracuse.
Offensive coordinator: Ed Zaunbrecher was fired and replaced by Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Gary Nord.
Defensive coordinator: Longtime Boilers defensive coordinator Brock Spack left to become Illinois State's head coach. Hope hired his former Eastern Kentucky staffer Landholm as Spack's replacement.
Running backs: Joel Thomas left for the same job at Washington, and Hope hired former Kansas State assistant Cornell Jackson as his replacement.
Offensive line: Hope handled the line in 2008 and hired his former Eastern Kentucky staffer Shawn Clark to replace him.
Special teams: Hope moved Mark Hagen from special teams to linebackers and promoted graduate assistant J.B. Gibboney to this post.
Notes: Tight ends coach John McDonnell was not retained for 2009, and a replacement hasn't been named. Terrell Williams will once again coach the entire defensive line this fall after working strictly with the ends in 2008.
Notes: After firing veteran defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz and seeing offensive line coach Bob Palcic leave for UCLA last year, head coach Bret Bielema is keeping his staff in place despite a very disappointing 2008 season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ohio State's impressive effort Monday night came up short, and a forgettable 2008 Big Ten season is over. Today's links have a Scarlet and Gray tinge to them.
- After two blowout losses in the national title game, Ohio State's narrow defeat Monday is easier to swallow, Bob Hunter writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
"The Buckeyes badly needed to play well in this one. Their national reputation was in tatters. Against a Texas team that many think belonged in the national championship game, few considered the possibility of an Ohio State win.
It didn't happen, but it at least restores some lost respect. The Buckeyes' high-profile failures no longer seem so conclusive; instead, they blend back into a wider range of big games under [Jim] Tressel that show the Buckeyes both winning and losing their share."
- No one likes the prevent defense, but Ohio State's decision to keep the pedal down might have cost it against Texas, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"On the final touchdown, linebacker James Laurinaitis blitzed, linebacker Marcus Freeman stepped to the line like he was blitzing then dropped into coverage, but not far enough to help on [Quan] Cosby, and then [safety Anderson] Russell was alone. Cosby caught the ball only 6 yards past the line of scrimmage, but that was enough."
- Running back Dan "Boom" Herron scored the apparent game-winning touchdown Monday and is ready to step in if and when Chris "Beanie" Wells bolts for the NFL, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Illinois offensive line coach Eric Wolford is leaving for South Carolina, where he will coach the line and coordinate the run game, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette.
- With Shonn Greene gone, Iowa's offense will be the hands of quarterback Ricky Stanzi, The Gazette's Marc Morehouse writes in his blog.