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Monday, August 31, 2009
Re-energized Spurrier keeping the faith

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's listless 31-10 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl last season was nearly the breaking point for Steve Spurrier.

 
  AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain
  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was frustrated at the end of last season.
The future Hall-of-Fame coach conceded that he was overcome with frustration following that game and wondered if it was time to walk away.

Spurrier, entering his fifth season at South Carolina, said he quickly got over that funk, thanks in large part to the way the Gamecocks recruited, and remains committed to bringing an SEC championship to a program that has wallowed in mediocrity throughout its history.

"If somebody says I'm going to hang it up real soon, then they probably watched the Outback Bowl," said Spurrier, whose Gamecocks open the season Thursday night at North Carolina State. "After that Outback Bowl, my thoughts were, 'What in the world am I doing here?' It was as frustrated as I've been."

Quarterback Stephen Garcia turned the ball over four times in the first half against Iowa, including his first pass play of the game.

"I'm sitting there watching the tight end run down the middle of the field and then (Garcia) throws it right to the safety," Spurrier recalled. "He hit him right in the bread basket. I'm thinking, 'We've gone over this and over this. Why did he do that?'

"So, yeah, I'm wondering, "Is this right for anybody?'"

What convinced the Head Ball Coach that it was still right was the way the Gamecocks recruited. With Shane Beamer taking over the reins as recruiting coordinator, they pulled in a class ranked 12th nationally by Scouts Inc. and landed five of the top seven prospects in the state of South Carolina.

And that's despite the horrific close to the 2008 season that saw South Carolina outscored by 98 points in three consecutive losses.

"We had a lot of good guys committed, and they all stuck with us," Spurrier said. "And then we added a lot of other really good guys after that, guys like Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore who are going to help us this year. We've got a lot good young talent on our team.

"That and the new (assistant) coaches we got in here sort of re-energized me. I look at it like we're starting our second run here."

Spurrier is 28-22 overall at South Carolina, which matches the best four-year win total for the Gamecocks in school history. But he's just 15-17 in SEC games.

Even more disconcerting for South Carolina fans is that he's just 1-3 against bitter in-state rival Clemson.

"I'm encouraged that we're headed in the right direction," said Spurrier, who turned 64 earlier this year. "We've got good players. We as coaches just have to get more out of them."

One thing's for sure. Regardless of what happens the next few years at South Carolina, Spurrier won't need anybody to tell him when it's time to step aside.

He'll know before anybody else.

"When your recruiting starts going bad and people don't have confidence in your program, then yeah, you've got to make a change," Spurrier said. "That's obvious. If that happens here, then certainly, I'll pack it up.

"But I'll tell you what. We have a sharp quarterback committed next year, and we're excited to see what he can do. We have five freshman wide receivers that really look good out there right now. For some reason or another, we've sort of turned into a young team this year. You say, 'Coach, this is your fifth year. Why are you such a young team?' I don't have the answer except that maybe we made some mistakes in recruiting and those guys just didn't work out.

"We certainly have hopes that these guys we have now and the guys on the way will help. Like I said, we're starting on our second leg, and we'll see where it takes us."