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HOOVER, Ala. -- Though he was the last coach to step to the podium at Southeastern Conference media days on Tuesday, Steve Spurrier quickly made it apparent he's confident in the ninth edition of his South Carolina football team.
The 68-year-old coaching veteran adequately stated his opinion on a couple of conference topics and jabbed at Notre Dame's independent status.
And that was only Spurrier's only case.
The Gamecocks won 11 games in each of the past two seasons, but Spurrier's goal remains the same as when he took the South Carolina job in 2005: winning the SEC title.
"We know we're not favored to win it, but we think we're going to have a team capable, capable if everything works out, some guys really come around, get a break or two," he said. "That's something we've not done at South Carolina, is won a conference championship, and we have hopes to do it. "We're going to try our best to see if we can make it happen this year. It won't be easy, of course. We may fall flat on our face, but that's what we're trying to do."
As usual, Spurrier was entertaining during his 29-minute session in the main media room.
The former Florida coach smiled and said, "Probably not," when asked if he'd turn in the Gators for a minor recruiting violation, as former Florida and current Ohio State Urban Meyer reportedly did earlier this offseason.
He joked about recently attending his 50th high school reunion -- "It was sort of quiet," he deadpanned regarding his return to Science Hill in Johnson City, a 90-minute drive from Knoxville -- and delivered a one-liner ("We got a bunch of offensive players that are pretty good.") when asked about playing superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on offense.
He gleefully announced the unanimous vote of the SEC's 28 football and men's basketball coaches during the league's spring meetings for a $300 expense for players' families to attend games as if he were revealing a juicy secret.
He gigged Notre Dame for having its athletic director in the meetings about college football's playoff with other conference commissioners.
"Somebody said, 'Why was he there?'" Spurrier recalled.
"All 14 of our head coaches thought that Notre Dame should join the ACC and play football like the rest of us," he added.
"It's sort of hard to figure out why they have their own conference," he concluded.
To win its conference, quarterback Connor Shaw believes South Carolina must stay healthy.
"I think last year when we hit the gauntlet and the meat of the schedule, we had a lot of guys banged up," he said. "I think we've got to stay healthy, stay focused and take it one week at a time. No doubt, I think this team, our camaraderie and chemistry are the best it's ever been, we work well together and I think this team is capable of big things this year."
South Carolina has beaten Georgia the past three seasons and holds a four-game winning streak against in-state rival Clemson, but the Gamecocks lost at LSU and Florida last season to finish third in the division. An upset home loss to Auburn cost them an SEC title game spot in 2011.
"I'm hungry about that," Clowney told a hoard of at least 50 reporters. "I'm hungry about getting to Atlanta. It's the big stage, so if I get there, it's the next step to getting to the national championship."
It's the next item on on the program's to-do list.
"The last three years we've been sort of up there in the hunt," Spurrier said. "We got there three years ago [and] fell flat on our face against Auburn. Then the last two years, we were one game away maybe from getting into the SEC [championship] game.
"So we're sort of knocking at the door, but we need to win those crucial games and see what happens."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...