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Steve Spurrier keeps it simple at SEC Media Days

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Much like he normally does, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier held court at SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL. Much like he normally does, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier held court at SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL.
HOOVER, AL (WIS) -

It wouldn't be a vintage Steve Spurrier press conference without an off-the-wall reference to something.

This year, it was Davy Crockett and the new rivalry trophy with new cross-division rival Texas A&M. They're calling it the Alamo Trophy.

"I always thought Davy Crockett was the hero of the Alamo, he and those 33 Tennessee guys that came in there and got killed, so forth.

Regardless of the head-scratching reference, Spurrier didn't throw too many barbs at this year's SEC Media Days as many expected (and hoped). Gone were the stabs at Alabama coach Nick Saban and the quips against Georgia. Instead, media members were treated to a relatively simple Spurrier who is still trying to guide his Gamecocks to the SEC Championship after 10 years in South Carolina.

But despite the challenges he's faced in Columbia, Spurrier says South Carolina was the best situation for him to come in to after three poor seasons as the coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins.

"It was a school, you could probably describe their football tradition as mediocre, they had a losing record overall, way under .500 in SEC games," said Spurrier. "Nowhere to go but up."
And up South Carolina has been in the past three seasons, finishing with three 11-win seasons, three bowl victories over big-time traditional schools like Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and three top 10 finishes.

That's been a pretty good run, according to Spurrier.

But the past is the past, naturally. Spurrier's laser focus is now on the 2014 season and the new opportunities it brings.

Even though he's played and won three big-time games for South Carolina, fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson comes in as the number one guy this year, bringing plenty of hope but plenty more questions about his ability to transition.

But worry not, says Spurrier, praising his new starting quarterback's patience since he's coming in with only year of eligibility left.

"He's got to pack his college career into one season," said Thompson. "He's the type of young man that really wants to make the most of it.  Hopefully that will happen for all of us."

Questions also surround the defense. Gone is the mystique and clout that came with former defensive Jadeveon Clowney, who still receives high praise from Spurrier.

But the defense wasn't just one man. Chaz Sutton, Kelcy Quarles, Jimmy Legree, and Victor Hampton all left the team this past season as well to pursue their NFL dreams.

"But we got all of our linebackers back, a bunch of guys.  So we should have a good defense, hopefully a real good one," said Spurrier.

With hope in the offense and the defense, Spurrier's eyes remain on the prize of the SEC Championship. South Carolina's one appearance in the championship wasn't a pleasant experience for the Gamecocks as they fell to the eventual national champion Auburn Tigers.

South Carolina has also had multiple chances in the past three seasons to return to Atlanta, but each time they've been rebuffed by teams they've beaten but have had a better win total in the SEC East. So how do they fix that? Simple.

"We need one of those Eastern Division teams to lose a game," said Spurrier. "We've gone 6‑2 in the conference and beat the division winner three years in a row. Then they go 7‑1. All you can do is give Georgia credit and give Missouri credit for doing it also."

Of course, Clemson eventually came up as well. South Carolina has entered an era of unprecedented success against their Upstate rivals, and that's not something lost on the Head Ball Coach.

"Clemson used to pretty much own South Carolina in football, no question about it," Spurrier said. "We have a state championship trophy. If you ask our fans at South Carolina, I can assure you a majority would say, 'We would rather beat Clemson than win the SEC.' That is how big it is to them, that one game."

But the Battle of the Palmetto State Trophy -- or the Hardee's Trophy if you're a rugged traditionalist -- still isn't as sweet as the one trophy Spurrier covets.

"Personally I'd rather win the SEC," said Spurrier. "I don't mind saying that. Personally that's the bigger trophy."

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