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August

2014

Volume 36, Issue 8


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

S

teve Spurrier is not shy about showing his love for the University of South Carolina. In fact, entering his 10th year in charge of the Gamecock football program he routinely calls South Carolina “my school.” Earlier this year it was even released that donations provided by Steve and Jerri Spurrier to the University had surpassed the $1 million mark. At the annual South Carolina media day on Sunday, Aug. 3, Spurrier broke down how the donations had worked out in reaching the $1 million mark. “The way it happened when I got here in 05, part of my contract was a luxury suite and I told (then Athletic Director) Mike McGee my wife doesn’t need a luxury suite, she likes sitting out there in the stands with the other wives, so go ahead and use that and sell it and sell it to one of our other boosters and what have you,” Spurrier said. “So they figured out that averaged around $50-55,000 thousand a year for that luxury suite. So they added that and (Gamecock legend) Sterling Sharpe and I won a bunch of money in the Chick-Fil-A golf tournament so they said that was about $250,000 grand over the years; we’ve won two and runner-up a couple. And then (current

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Ellen Priest Publisher & President Aiken Communications, Inc. Tim O’Briant General Manager tobriant@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1400 Ext. 500 Brian Hand Executive Editor bhand@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Mike Kucharski Reporter mike@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 507 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/Account Executive ed@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 ext. 501

South Carolina Director of Golf) Puggy Blackmon we did that wine deal and that brought in about $150,000 to the athletic department and I actually wrote a check to the track program my first year here. But anyway, they added it all up and said it came to that and basically I just wanted the Gamecocks to know that ‘hey, this is my school now.’” Ever the proponent of the Gamecock cause, Spurrier hopes his willingness to give back to the school in various avenues will cause others to do just the same. “This is the school I want to give back to and hopefully our pro football players who’ve signed the big money can give back a little bit,” Spurrier elaborated. “You feel good when you give back to your school. That’s what you have to do in college to be successful. People have to give back to their school.” Spurrier recognizes that without people giving back to the University the recent unprecedented success at South Carolina probably would not have been plausible. It’s one of the reasons he is commencing his 10th season in charge of the Gamecocks. “I thought it was possible to coach 8-10 years.” Spurrier remarked. “I told everybody that’s what I wanted to do. I told everybody that I’m not here for 2-3 years and try to find one of those jobs that has more advantages than this one used to

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have. Now this one has the advantages. “It’s clear now that with the facility upgrades and our track record we have turned into a school with some advantages. It took a few years to get where we are, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got it made. We could fall flat on our face this year if we don’t watch it, but I really think this is a team that will prepare to play the best they can each year. I do think we are a school with advantages now. We graduate our players, they stay out of trouble, we win and we send them to the NFL. We have a track record of all of that,” Spurrier continued. All of these reasons are why Spurrier completely understands that whether donors are giving millions or are giving $55

at the Roost level of the Gamecock Club every little bit counts towards sustaining success on the gridiron at South Carolina. “All our fans are doing it very well,” Spurrier concluded. “I talk about our donors a lot, but they’re in position to do that. I’ve learned fundraising is based simply on what you have and we’re not asking anybody to go broke giving to our school. We’re just asking those that have a little extra to give back to your old school. And that’s the way it should be … hopefully I’ve got several more years, but you never know. You never know. I’ve got four more years on my contract, so that’s good I guess, but if we go bad they don’t need me around here. So we’re planning on staying pretty good.”

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ID STATEMENT: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 26 times annually. The frequency is monthly from December to July and weekly from the third Wednesday in August to the fourth Wednesday in November. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes three slick-paper magazine issues — one in January, one in July and one in August. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.

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Game 5: vs. Missouri (9/27) Game 3: vs. Georgia (9/13) By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

Game 1: vs. Texas A&M (8/28) South Carolina will open the 2014 college football season with a huge conference matchup against another top-25 caliber team that could be one of the best games of the opening weekend. Texas A&M will bring a high-powered offense into Williams-Brice Stadium to try and outscore the Gamecocks. South Carolina’s young secondary will be tested early, but defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward should have a gameplan to slow down the Aggie attack. Dylan Thompson and the Gamecock offense should be able to score on Texas A&M’s defense and look for the powerful Gamecock offensive line and running game to close it out if they can get a lead.

Game 2: vs. East Carolina (9/6) The Pirates are coming off a 10-3 season that featured a victory in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl led by quarterback Shane Carden. East Carolina will try to throw the ball around Williams-Brice Stadium again testing the young Gamecock secondary, but the turnover on the Pirates offensive line could be exploited if the Gamecocks can generate a pass rush. South Carolina’s offense should have more than enough talent to exploit the Pirate defense and put up points. While East Carolina may be one of the favorites for the AAC, the talent and depth of South Carolina should be enough to take care of business at home.

The South Carolina-Georgia game always seems to go a long way in determining the SEC East champion and the 2014 version should be no different. The Gamecocks fell in Athens last year to the Bulldogs, so they will have revenge on their mind. Georgia’s offense should rely heavily on Todd Gurley, but quarterback Hutson Mason has the experience to run the offense, so the Gamecock defense will need to be ready. South Carolina’s offense will look to exploit the Bulldog defense that may still be getting used to the new coordinator and they definitely have the talent to do so. This game features a pair of fairly evenlymatched teams, so the Gamecocks hope the fans in Garnet & Black can help cheer them to an important early-season victory in Williams-Brice Stadium.

Game 4: at Vanderbilt (9/20) South Carolina hits the road for the first time in 2014 by heading to Nashville to pay a visit to the Commodores. Last season Vanderbilt gave the Gamecocks a run for their money in WilliamsBrice Stadium, but this is not the same team as 2013. The Commodores must replace all four defensive backs and the Gamecocks will look to unleash the passing attack to take advantage of the new backfield. The Gamecock defense should be settling into new roles and be able to shut down Vanderbilt’s attack that could be lacking a punch. If everything goes according to plan, the Gamecocks should come away with their first road win of the season, but Vanderbilt could be a dangerous matchup.

The Tigers will come to the true Columbia looking for redemption for last season’s double-overtime home loss, but without quite as much talent as the 2013 edition.The offense should still be explosive with a talented quarterback and running backs, but the receiving corps is diminished. South Carolina’s talented linebacking group should be able to contain that attack and curtail the Tiger offense. South Carolina’s offense should be able to move the ball and put up points on the Missouri defense that has to replace a lot of pieces from last season’s SEC East champions. The Gamecocks also should be able to add another win in Williams-Brice Stadium without as much drama as the 2013 matchup.

Game 6: at Kentucky (10/4) Kentucky is improving and the Gamecocks always seem to struggle in Lexington, but this year they should not have trouble with the Wildcats. South Carolina’s talented offensive line will be called upon to keep the Wildcats’ duo of defensive ends away from Thompson and a heavy dose of Mike Davis and the other running backs should help as well. The Gamecock defense should be able to suppress the Kentucky offense as there is talent at the skill positions, but it is untested from an SEC standpoint. South Carolina should be able to pick up another SEC road victory on its trip to the Bluegrass State, but nothing is guaranteed in Commonwealth Stadium, so the Gamecocks must show up ready to play.


Game 11: vs. S. Alabama (11/22) Game 9: vs. Tennessee (11/1) Game 7: vs. Furman (10/18) The Paladins should be one of the best teams in the Southern Conference, but the talent level is not there to compete with the Gamecocks. Furman is strong on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, but the size and speed of South Carolina’s players in the trenches should negate that aspect. The Gamecocks should continue the tradition of beating in-state schools under head coach Steve Spurrier, but they cannot overlook the Paladins who will be on their biggest stage of the season. As long as they do not look to the next week’s game at Auburn, South Carolina should get a win and allow some backup players to see the field.

Game 8: at Auburn (10/25) This could be the most dangerous road game on the Gamecocks regularseason schedule as they head to the Plains to take on the Tigers. Auburn’s offense can be as good as any in the nation and it will present challenges for the Gamecock defense, but hopefully the new players will have settled into their roles by this point. The Gamecock offense may have the advantage against the Tiger defense, but both units have more than enough talent to go around. This game could be one of the premier games of the 2014 season as it pits a pair of top-10 caliber teams in a showdown that is too close to predict an outcome.

As the calendar rolls to November, the Gamecocks will have revenge on their mind when Tennessee comes to town. The Gamecocks offense should be able to put up good numbers on the Volunteer defense, particularly through the air. The Volunteer offense has explosive players on the perimeter, but will the quarterback be able to get the ball to them? Not if the Gamecock defense has anything to say about it as the pass rush will try to bring the heat on an offensive line that had no returning starters at the beginning of the year. The Gamecocks should be able to avenge last season’s heartbreaking loss in Knoxville this year in the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium.

Game 10: at Florida (11/15) The Gamecocks could head to the Swamp with the SEC East title on the line if everything falls their way and fans will hope for a repeat of 2010’s visit. South Carolina’s defense should be able to stifle the Gator offense with what should be a talented and seasoned group by this point of the year. Florida’s defense has been stout and should be again, but if the Gamecocks can get the ball to playmakers in space, they should be able to put up some points. This could be a huge game for South Carolina; they could rise to the occasion and possibly win the second SEC East title under Spurrier with a win in the final regular-season SEC game.

The Jaguars should contend for the Sun Belt title and it gave Tennessee fits in 2013, but South Carolina should be able to take care of business, particularly at home. South Alabama has some defensive holes heading into the season and if those questions are not answered by this point the Gamecock offense could have a field day. South Carolina’s defense should be able to stop the Jaguar attack despite an experienced offensive line and four experienced running backs. The Gamecocks’ greater talent should make the difference against the Jaguars without much trouble as long as Spurrier makes sure the players do not look ahead to the next game.

Game 12: at Clemson (11/29) The Palmetto State rivalry renews with the Tigers certainly looking to make up for five years of disappointment in Memorial Stadium in a game that could have implications for the first College Football Playoff. The Gamecock offense will look to neutralize Clemson’s defensive line headlined by Vic Beasley and put up points on an improved defense. South Carolina’s defense should match up well with the offense that has to replace a number of big-time performers, but always seems to be strong under offensive coordinator Chad Morris. The Gamecocks and the Tigers will most likely be close in the fourth quarter with the game to be decided late for state bragging rights.


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com South Carolina has had one of the best football teams in program history in each of the past few years, but there are those who have said without Gamecock greats Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney that South Carolina’s “golden age of football” will come to an end in the 2014 season. With Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier entering his 10th season leading the Gamecocks, here are 10 reasons why the Gamecocks will continue to be one of the best teams in the nation and can compete for an SEC Championship in December:

10

An often overlooked aspect of football, the Gamecocks boast an excellent placekicker in sophomore Elliott Fry. Fry has gone from walk-on to the Lou Groza Award Watch List after hitting 15-of-18 field goals in 2013. Fry has already made field goals in key situations last season - the double-overtime win at Missouri and the “field goal game” (as described by Spurrier) against Florida - and he should be ready to kick in big situations in 2014.

9

South Carolina’s schedule has seven home games, including hosting SEC East contenders Georgia and Missouri at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks have won 18-straight home games, the longest current home winning streak in the nation and the atmosphere created by the Garnet & Black-clad fans will make it extremely hard on any opponent coming to Columbia this year. The two toughest road tests for South Carolina come later in the season at Auburn on Oct. 25 and at Clemson on Nov. 29. At this point in the season even new players should be experienced and ready to take on a pair of possible top-10 teams.

8

South Carolina boasts a stable of talented and experienced wide receivers for a potentially explosive offense. Junior Shaq Roland could be on the verge of a breakout season after setting career highs for catches and receiving yards in the 2014 Capital One Bowl. Senior Damiere Byrd has

6 • Spurs & Feathers

game-changing speed and caught four touchdowns while averaging 17.4 yards per catch last season. Often-overlooked senior Nick Jones is consistent, reliable and can play both outside and in the slot. Sophomore Pharoh Cooper is a “wildcard”, an “X-factor” or any cliché you can think of, but the fact is he can make plays with the ball in his hands.

7

The Gamecocks are 23-4 with Lorenzo Ward as the defensive coordinator since he took over before the Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska in 2012. “Whammy” Ward adapted the team last season after losing all of the two-deep at the linebacker positions and still had the second-best scoring defense in the SEC, which was 12th nationally. He faces a similar challenge in replacing a pair of starting cornerbacks, defensive ends and a defensive tackle. Ward should have new answers to find a way to continue to stop opponents and he wants to force more turnovers to let the Gamecock offense shine.

6

Dylan Thompson has served as a “super sub” in his career while filling in for an injured Shaw, but as a fifth-year senior it will be his show. Thompson has become a team leader, much by example during offseason workouts, which is good because all eyes will be on him. Thus far Thompson has handled the spotlight well, particularly at SEC Media Days. Thompson has a bigtime pedigree with the win in Clemson in 2012 and Spurrier has said that he has

to pack a whole college career into one season. Thompson has the arm strength and accuracy and is good enough with his feet to lead what could be a prolific Gamecock offense.

5

While the linebackers were an issue for the Gamecock defense last season this year the group should be a strength of the defense. The linebacking corps is so deep and talented that Ward has started using a 3-4 defensive formation to get more players with speed and experience on the field. Sophomores Skai Moore and T.J. Holloman were both named Freshmen All-Americans last season and should only improve with experience and another offseason in the Gamecocks’ strength and conditioning program. Senior spur Sharrod Golightly returns along with Kaiwan Lewis as well and there are plenty of big, fast, strong players waiting in the wings to get a shot on the field.

4

Four of five of South Carolina’s offensive line starters from 2013 return for the 2014 season. Tackles Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell and left guard A.J. Cann were all named to the Outland Trophy Watch List as some of the best interior lineman in college football. Cann was also chosen as a preseason All-American and named to the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List. Center Cody Waldrop was selected to the Rimington Award Watch List for the best center in the nation. The non-returning starter is right guard which should be Mike Matulis, who was a Freshman All-American in 2011. Cann has said that

the preseason accolades are nice, but he said it will be better to be recognized after the year if they can anchor a highpowered Gamecock offense.

3

The Gamecock backfield has explosive players that are capable of gaining plenty of yards and scoring touchdowns with the holes the offensive lineman should open. Mike Davis highlights the running backs after gaining 1,183 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns last season and he has been getting some offseason Heisman buzz. Brandon Wilds is next on the depth chart and has two seasons of SEC experience already under his belt. Shon Carson has been a threat and rushed for over 100 yards in the victory over Florida in 2013 and can make an impact. Redshirt freshman David Williams is highly thought of and has all the physical tools to be successful in the SEC as well. The real questions could be who gets the majority of the carries this season and how can all these talented players get on the field?

2

Gamecock fans know the numbers: three-straight 11-win seasons, three-straight top-10 finishes, 18-straight wins at Williams-Brice Stadium, three-straight January 1st bowl victories, not to mention five-straight Palmetto State rivalry victories. This is no longer the South Carolina football program that was disrespected in its early years in the SEC. At SEC Media Days, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said that the prospect of opening the season on the road with the Gamecocks has made his team focus during the offseason. South Carolina finished a program-best fourth in last season’s polls and are almost universally regarded as a top-10 team coming into 2014. It is safe to say that the culture has changed at South Carolina.

1

The Head Ball Coach. Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier is already the winningest coach in South Carolina history with 77 victories and already has as many 11-win seasons at South Carolina as he did in his 12 seasons coaching Florida. Spurrier has said the goal he is now striving for is to bring an SEC Championship back to Columbia. Combining Spurrier with the other nine aforementioned factors it is plausible that the Gamecocks make the trip back to Atlanta as the SEC East champion to compete for the SEC title for the first time since 2010.


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

F

or the second time in school history, South Carolina has been picked to win the SEC East by a panel of media members at the annual SEC Media Days. Alabama was picked as the overall SEC champion just above South Carolina and Auburn. South Carolina was also selected to win the SEC East at the 2011 SEC Media Days. The Gamecocks collected a total of 1,895 votes to hold off Georgia (1,777) for the top spot in the East in the preseason poll. In the SEC West, Alabama with a total of 1,915 was just ahead of Auburn (1,735). A record of 293 voters picked the preseason All-SEC team. In addition to being tabbed as the preseason favorites in the SEC East, the Gamecocks had four players chosen to the preseason all-league teams. Offensively, running back back Mike Davis, left guard A.J. Cann and left tackle Corey Robinson were named to the preseason

All-SEC second-team. South Carolina defensive back Brison Williams was tabbed to the preseason All-SEC third-team.

Eastern Division South Carolina - 1895 Georgia - 1777 Florida - 1362 Missouri - 1263 Tennessee - 893 Vanderbilt - 619 Kentucky - 395

Western Division Alabama - 1915 Auburn - 1735 LSU - 1453 Ole Miss - 1069 Mississippi State - 890 Texas A&M - 791 Arkansas - 351

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Spurs & Feathers • 7


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com Each SEC team with its biggest strength, biggest question mark and season outlook:

Alabama

Alabama’s run game features some of the best, most explosive tailbacks in the nation in T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake along with a pair of bigtime receivers in Amari Cooper and Christion Jones. The quarterback position is up for grabs, although Jacob Coker transferring in from Florida State is high on talent but low on experience. Alabama should continue its run as a perennial national power with another great defensive front and running game as the Tide will hope to control games in the trenches.

stretch to see them contending for the SEC East. Extra question: How hot will the hot seat be for Will Muschamp?

Georgia

The Bulldogs once again have one of the best tailbacks in the nation in Todd Gurley when healthy and add quarterback Hutson Mason who got late-season experience in 2013 following Aaron Murray going down. The Georgia defense gave up a lot of points last year and the pass defense was extremely poor, but can new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who also coaches the secondary, help solve some of those problems. The Bulldogs could contend for the SEC championship if their health holds and the defense can produce.

of the holes and lean on the experienced offensive line, the Mad Hatter could have the Bayou Bengals contending for the SEC West crown.

Mississippi

Ole Miss has the most experienced quarterback in the conference in Bo Wallace and there is enough talent at the skill positions around him to allow the attack to flourish. The offensive line is facing turnover and the defense will have to find a way for the most talented players to stay on the field after injuries hurt the unit last season. The Rebels get Alabama and Auburn at home which could help in the SEC West and if they can find a way to close out big games in the fourth quarter they could capitalize on the high expectations of the past few seasons.

Texas A&M

Auburn

The Gators strength the past few seasons has been the defense and that should not change in 2014 with experienced and talented players at each position group. The offense will need to find a way to put up points, but the return of quarterback Jeff Driskell and emergences of some talented running backs including Kelvin Taylor could improve upon last season’s dismal offense. The Gators are talented and should improve from the four wins of a year ago, but it might be a

8 • Spurs & Feathers

The Gamecocks return four starters on the offensive line and the newest addition is likely to be a former Freshman All-American at right guard, so the deep group of skill players should have time and space to perform. The defense faces a great amount of turnover at cornerback and defensive line and how the new players fill those holes could help determine how good the Gamecocks can be. South Carolina has talent and depth to be able to contend for the SEC crown, particularly if Dylan Thompson can fill the big shoes left at the quarterback position.

Tennessee has a bevy of talent at the wide receiver spot and that position group could make big plays for the Vols this year. A two-fold question for the Vols is who will start on the offensive and defensive lines and will they be up to SEC caliber as Tennessee has zero returning starters on either side of the line of scrimmage. Tennessee is on the rise under the guidance of Butch Jones, but without an established quarterback and a tough early schedule, they could struggle to find success in a loaded conference.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema likes to run the ball and be strong up front. He has experience returning on the offensive line and explosive backs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins toting the rock. The back seven of the defense has struggled, particularly the secondary, which may need to count on freshman. Arkansas should be able to take a step forward in year two under Bielema and should not lose nine in a row like last season, but the Razorbacks are probably at least a year away from competing in the tough SEC West.

Florida

South Carolina

Tennessee

Arkansas

Nick Marshall was a terror to SEC defenses last year and with another year learning under head coach Gus Malzhan his passing game should be more dangerous. Auburn’s defense, particularly the secondary, were questionable last season, but the players may have improved with another year in Ellis Johnson’s system. Auburn has a tough schedule and may not find as much luck as last season with games on the line, but the Tigers can be counted on to be one of the top 10-15 teams in the nation at worst and one of the best if bounces go their way again.

showed in limited time last season then the the Tigers could be in contention for the SEC East title again.

Kentucky

The Wildcats boast one of the best pairs of returning defensive ends not only in the conference, but also in the nation in Alvin “Bud” Dupree and Za’Darius Smith to harass quarterbacks this year. Head coach Mark Stoops has brought in a number of highly-touted recruits since taking over the helm and will that talent show up, particularly at the skill positions with lots of youth in the backfield and on the outside? Kentucky will have to lean heavily on its defense to stay in games in conference play and while they will progress, it likely will not be enough to contend in the SEC East.

LSU

The Tigers biggest strength might be head coach Les Miles, but on the field the defensive line could be one of the best in conference and the corners are supremely talented if untested. How will LSU replace last season’s starting quarterback, leading rusher and top receivers who went in the NFL Draft and who will be under center this fall? If LSU can continue to plug in talented recruits to some

Mississippi State

The Bulldogs boast one of the most talented quarterbacks in the SEC with Dak Prescott under center with the ability to run the ball and a reportedly improved passing game. Mississippi State needs to find some answers on the offensive line to protect Prescott and allow the talented skill players to shine. The Bulldogs have a defense that could be great with plenty of experience and if Prescott can share ball and not have to carry too much of the load, they could be a handful for some of the favorites in the SEC West.

Missouri

The Tiger offense will be led by quarterback Maty Mauk and a pair of excellent running backs will line up with him in the backfield behind a fairly experienced offensive line. The defense must find a way to replace pass rushers and corners who helped the Tigers surprise much of the SEC with their stingy play. If Missouri can find a way to replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball and Maty Mauk can continue the play he

The Aggies will continue the tradition of talented offensive lines to allow some of the young, talented playmakers time and space to operate. The Aggies’ defense was the worst in the SEC last season and lost some key players during the offseason, but can the returning players take a step forward after competing in the conference a year ago? If Texas A&M can sustain the explosive offense without the likes of Johnny Football and get enough stops to not have to score every possession, they could be a factor in the SEC West.

Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt has depth returning on the offensive line with four starters returning which should help bolster the ground attack for the Commodores. New head coach Derek Mason is incorporating a 3-4 defensive scheme, so how the players adjust to their new roles will go a long way in determining the success of the season. Vanderbilt will need to find a quarterback, have players at the skill positions step up and see its defense progress in the new system to be a threat in the SEC East, but Mason seems to be the right long-term replacement at the helm for the Commodores.


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com “I just can’t let go of my childhood it seems like. I love doing this and seeing the smiles on the kids faces.” Those were the thoughts of redshirt senior spur Sharrod Golightly after participating in “Pigskin Poets” at the Richland County Library on Friday, July 18. Golightly said that he volunteered to participate in the outreach program with the Gamecock football team at the annual “Pigskin Poets” event. “I love this man. It’s my third or fourth year doing it and it’s always a pleasure to read to them. It makes me reflect back to when I was in second grade,” Golightly added. The “Pigskin Poets” featured 24 Gamecock football players coming to spend time with about 300 children from around Columbia on a Friday afternoon to encourage them to continue reading and learning over the summer. This is the 17th year that Gamecock football players have participated in the event. Padgett Mozingo, the Marketing and Communications Manager for Richland Community Library, said that the event was in coordination with their Summer Learning Program. “This focuses on reading and learning in different ways and shows the kids that come that it’s fun, it’s cool and it can help you get to college,” Mozingo said. “The impact that these players can give to the kids is so much more that we could ever give. “To see players have fun with the books can be inspiring to the children

and it’s such a neat opportunity that gives some kids a chance to interact with these players who may never get that chance again,” Mozingo continued. The program started with Cocky and the Gamecock cheerleaders getting the children (and their parents) fired up for the program until the players entered to “2001.” The players and children participated in a game of “Simon Says,” sang songs and told stories between different players taking turns reading. A.J. Cann and Patrick Fish read poems about sports while Golightly and fellow spur Jordan Diggs combined to read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” with the help of the kids. All of the players who participated had a good time and South Carolina’s Coordinator of Life Skills and Community Outreach Erica Nelson noted that many of the players were excited to help and volunteered for the event. “It was really good. I love giving back to kids at things like this. It just helps the kids and gives them something to look forward to for that day,” junior linebacker Kaiwan Lewis said. “Especially with doing this during the summer time when most kids are just focused on having fun, but to keep the education going and learning during the summer is important. It is just a great vibe and a great environment.” Senior wide receiver Damiere Byrd agreed with Lewis, saying “it’s a really fun time. I’ve been here every year since I’ve been on campus. It’s a great time to be able to spend with kids, sit down with them, talk with them. We usually don’t get this opportunity, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Redshirt junior Mike Matulis said that it is his third time participating in “Pigskin Poets” and he has loved the experience each time. “It’s all about the kids. These are our

fans, these are the people that look up to us, so it’s all about them. You want to show them that school is very important and it’s all about helping in the community,” Matulis concluded.

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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ith the new season on the horizon it was kind of looked at before the event as if the 2014 SEC Media Days would be the real beginning of the Dylan Thompson year in charge of the offense at South Carolina. For Thompson though that was not the case. It was just another day. Only difference was this one featured well over 1,000 media members grilling him along with his head coach Steve Spurrier and teammates A.J. Cann and J.T. Surratt on a variety of topics. “I don’t feel too different, “Thompson noted. “Obviously Connor (Shaw) isn’t here, but it’s been fun in the offseason just leading the guys and having others lead. I think it’s important to have multiple voices. I think Corey Robinson, Brison Williams, those guys have done a great job … just really excited about our team and our guys.” Spurrier believes the redshirt senior quarterback has a real chance to be special in the coming year. “Dylan Thompson is going to be our quarterback,” Spurrier remarked. “Hopefully he can stay healthy the entire season. We really believe he’s a very good player, has a chance to lead us to a big season. He’s a fifth-year

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player. He’s been to all the games. He’s 3-0 as a starter. Played the entire game last year against Central Florida … he’s the only quarterback in the nation to beat UCF (last year). He’s obviously played, he’s a good player, ready to go.” Spurrier articulated that since Thompson has only this one season to own the starting quarterback job he expects him to shine. “He’s got to pack his college career into one season,” Spurrier said. “He’s the type of young man that really wants to make the most of it. Hopefully that will happen for all of us.” A close friend of Thompson’s, Cann, a senior guard, believes that he has stepped up this offseason and is ready for the year ahead. “This year, Dylan is stepping up as quarterback and I think we have done a good job in the offseason already getting the team together, having meetings, breaking it down a lot, talking to the guys,” Cann commented. “Not only that, but we have all the seniors on the team doing a good job playing the leadership role. I think this year we’re going to have a lot of guys on the team for all the young players to look up to in any moment to take that leadership role. And we’re doing a good job, this year, of that.”

As all good leaders do, Thompson this past year took it upon himself to not only to continue to learn from a coaching legend like Spurrier, but also from a national championship-winning baseball coach like South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner. Thompson interned in the Athletics Department under Tanner and it was the little things that impressed him the most about working with the second-year Athletics Director at South Carolina. “I got to see coach Tanner each day in his environment,” Thompson mentioned. “I watch people a lot. It’s weird, maybe, but I try to pick up on that and learn. I just remember like from day one he spoke to everyone, be it a janitor, a CEO of some company, whoever it was, he was speaking to you … so that meant a lot to me to really be that way with everyone and really seek them out and see how they’re doing. That’s what I try to do.” Thompson’s time to watch is over now and Spurrier believes the incredibly patient Thompson is more than ready. “Dylan has been very patient,” Spurrier elaborated. “He and Connor Shaw were best of friends all four years. Now he’s got it all by himself. It just worked out that way. It just happened that way, occasionally it does … he’s a good player. He’s ready to play.”


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina was ranked ninth in the preseason USA Today Amway Coaches poll for the 2014 season released on Thursday, July 31,2014. The Gamecocks received one firstplace vote. They were the only SEC team with a first-place vote. Seven SEC teams in total are in the preseason top-25 with Alabama (second) and Auburn (fifth) joining the Gamecocks in the top-10. South Carolina’s rival Clemson is 16th in the preseason tally. Defending national champion Florida State is the No. 1 team in the preseason poll. South Carolina began 2014 preseason preparations on Friday, Aug. 1. The Gamecocks will open their 2014 season against No. 20 Texas A&M at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 28 at Williams-Brice Stadium. The preseason national ranking comes just weeks after the Gamecocks were picked to win the SEC East by a panel of media members at SEC Media Days. It marked just the second time in school history that the Gamecocks had been tabbed to win the SEC East in the preseason media tally. South Carolina was also selected to win the SEC East at the 2011 SEC Media Days. Alabama was picked as the overall 2014 SEC champion just above South Carolina and Auburn. The Gamecocks collected a total of 1,895 votes to hold off Georgia (1,777) for the top spot in the East in the preseason

poll. In the SEC West, Alabama with a total of 1,915 was just ahead of Auburn (1,735). South Carolina was ranked a programbest fourth in the final 2013 Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Polls last season. In both polls, national champion Florida State was No. 1 followed by Auburn and Michigan State. Missouri was just behind the Gamecocks in fifth in both polls. The ranking of fourth marked South Carolina’s first-ever top-5 national finish. The ranking of fourth bests the previous program-best ranking of eighth in the final AP tally and seventh in the final Coaches’ poll of the 2012 season. The Gamecocks have now been ranked in the top-10 in the final polls in each of the last three seasons. South Carolina commenced the 2013 season ranked sixth in the AP preseason poll and seventh in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The 2014 AP preseason poll is set to be released on Aug. 17, 2014. South Carolina has been ranked in a program-best 64 straight AP polls, which ties them with Stanford for the fifthlongest streak in all of college football. The Gamecocks have now been in the AP top-10 37 times in school history. South Carolina, Alabama and Oregon are the only teams to finish in the AP top-10 in each of the last three seasons. Described by Spurrier as the “bowl national champs” last year, South Carolina downed a nation-best six teams that won bowl games, including BCS winners UCF

and Clemson. The Gamecocks were the only team to defeat UCF. In addition to Clemson (Orange Bowl) and UCF (Fiesta Bowl), South Carolina also picked up victories last season over the winner of the Belk Bowl (North Carolina), the Autozone Liberty Bowl (Mississippi State), the AT&T Cotton Bowl (Missouri) and the BBVA Compass Bowl (Vanderbilt). South Carolina collected its third straight 11-win season by besting then 19th-ranked Wisconsin, 34-24, in the Capital One Bowl. South Carolina is just one of five programs to pick up 11 wins in each of the last three seasons, joining Alabama, Oregon, Northern Illinois and Stanford. The South Carolina (11-2) bowl win over Wisconsin garnered the Gamecocks three straight New Year’s Day bowl victories. The Gamecocks bested Nebraska, 30-13, in the 2012 Capital One Bowl and Michigan, 33-28, in the 2013 Outback Bowl. South Carolina has now claimed a program-best 42 wins over the course of the last four seasons. The Gamecocks were the only team in the country last season to beat three teams in the top-15 of the final BCS standings (Clemson, Missouri and UCF). South Carolina posted five wins over teams that finished in the top-25 (Missouri 5/5, Clemson 8/7, UCF 10/12, Wisconsin 22/21 and Vanderbilt 24/23). Prior to the Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin the then 10th-ranked Gamecocks concluded the regular season

with a 31-17 victory over then sixthranked Clemson in the first-ever top-10 showdown between the two programs. The victory allowed the Gamecocks to procure their fifth consecutive win over their rivals. The regular season-ending win over Clemson also allowed the Gamecocks to extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 18 games. South Carolina was a perfect 7-0 at home in the 2013 season. The Gamecocks closed out last year with six consecutive wins, including victories over ranked Missouri, Clemson and Wisconsin. After the conclusion of the Capital One Bowl, Spurrier noted what a great threeyear run it has been for the Gamecocks. “Everything in all my life, in all the Gamecock life, we’ve never had three years identical,” Spurrier said. “I mean, think about it: 6-2 in the conference, 11-2, win a bowl game, beat Clemson in all three. They’re identical years, almost. Won 18 in a row at home. That’s something that is amazing to me, too. “We lead the nation right now in consecutive home victories … 18 in a row we’ve won at home and they have not been blowouts. They have not been like some of the games when I was coaching in the Swamp, there were a lot of blowouts there, but these were just games that could have gone either way and somehow or another, these guys make plays to win the game, so it’s been amazing. It’s been a wonderful time for all of us,” Spurrier continued.

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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espite still being in rebuilding mode last year, the South Carolina men’s basketball program had the largest per-game attendance increase in the SEC during the 2013-14 season. South Carolina increased its attendance from the 2012-13 season to the 2013-14 season by 1,471 fans and the increase was not just the best in the SEC, but was among the tops in the nation as only seven Division I schools had a higher increase than the Gamecocks last year. To capitalize on the attendance increase as well as a strong conclusion to the 2013-14 season that saw the Gamecocks best eventual national runner-up Kentucky along with win two games in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2006, South Carolina recently undertook the unique “8K in 8 Days” campaign. The special “8K in 8 Days” campaign was aimed at reaching 8,000 fans in the greater Columbia community and the Palmetto State over the course of the eight days, which encompassed July 22-29. The overall effort of the campaign was to the lay the foundation of reaching 8,000 season tickets for men’s basketball for the 2014-15 season. South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin and other team members took part in several events throughout the campaign. Studentathletes participated in a Special Olympics event, reached out to season ticket holders through various avenues, attended a session of “Cocky’s Reading Express” at the Richland County Public Library, attended the Richland County Sheriff Future Stars Camp, which was hosted by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Leon Lott and also visited The Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. The eight-day initiative concluded with two events beginning on Monday, July 28 with the entire team attending an actionpacked day for kids at Fort Jackson and on Tuesday, July 29 with Martin attending Academy Sports & Outdoors’ annual backto-school donation event at its newest store near the Harbison shopping district. According to South Carolina Director of Marketing Josh Waters the campaign truly did lay the foundation and in the end was a huge success. “As of July 29, 2014, we are currently up 54 percent in season tickets for men’s basketball compared to last year at this time,” Waters noted. “This percentage includes both renewed season tickets and new sales. The renewal deadline for season tickets for men’s hoops is September 26. We are off to a great start and can build off of this momentum.“

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Martin was quick to point out that the “8K in 8 Days” initiative garnered his program a chance to show Columbia and the State of South Carolina a little bit more about the program. “I don’t want our fans to just show up because our guys play basketball,” Martin remarked. “I want our fans to show up because they respect what our players do around the clock. Yeah, they play basketball, but they also care about things that take place in this community and whether it’s Justin McKie who’s from right down the road or it’s Shamiek Sheppard who’s from the projects in Brooklyn, I want them all to embrace this as their home the way me and my family have. Part of embracing that is understanding that our jobs – whether you’re a student or an employee here – is to make this community better. “When you make a choice to go work at a school or attend a school, it’s not just about you, it’s about what you can do for

you can make a difference in their life, whether it’s saying ‘hello, how you doing? or hi,’ things like that. When they called us and said Special Olympics was coming, we all said yes and we were excited. Like I said, every day you never know when you might need help. For us to give back and be part of the community service, this was something that we all wanted to do and we enjoyed doing it.” Johnson’s thoughts were easily seen by those in attendance as the South Carolina men’s basketball team had a blast doing drills and just having fun playing the game of basketball with the Special Olympics athletes in attendance on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. 17-year-old Special Olympics athlete Ashley Workman said the efforts of the Gamecock men’s basketball team “meant the world to me because it was fun and I like to play basketball with my brother. I liked to shoot the ball in the hoop and

South Carolina men’s basketball is not just confined to the hardwood and Thornwell and the rest of the Gamecocks are keenly aware of this fact. All of this is why, Thornwell and his teammates were more than willing to give their time as part of the “8K in 8 Days” campaign at the Richland Country Sheriff’s Department Stars of Tomorrow Camp on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at Burnside Elementary School in Columbia, S.C. “It’s fun,” the sophomore guard mentioned. “It’s fun giving back to the community, helping kids out, being able to just be a role model to them. They see us on TV and come to our games and stuff, so it’s good to actually come here and help them and be hands on with them.” Members of the South Carolina men’s basketball team participated in a Cocky’s Reading Express program on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at the Richland County Public Library.

the people in that community and make it better for the kids in that community. We’re trying to make that connection with our fans that it’s a little deeper than the game and when you do that then your fans start coming because of who you are, not who you play, not how many games you’ve won. They come because they believe in what your program’s about and they’re excited about what’s being built. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Martin elaborated. South Carolina men’s basketball senior guard Tyrone Johnson had been anticipating the chance to work with the Special Olympics athletes at the Colonial Life Arena from the moment he heard it would happen. “This right here is the best feeling ever, giving back, especially (to) Special Olympics people with needs who need help,” Johnson remarked. “There’s no better feeling with giving back and knowing

make shots and make my family happy.” South Carolina sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell knew what he was getting into when he decided to attend the University of South Carolina to play basketball. One of the most coveted recruits in all of the country, Thornwell knew it was going to take time to build a winner at South Carolina, but that is exactly why he chose to play for Martin and the Gamecocks. “It’s fun to be able to help South Carolina build a team,” Thornwell noted. “That’s why we all (current Gamecocks) came to have something new. We all could have went to different schools and to different programs that was already established … so we all wanted to help build something. We didn’t want to be a regular player at a regular program. We wanted to come and help and be remembered for helping change.” Helping to change things around

Johnson, junior forward Brian Steele and sophomore forward Reggie Theus Jr. took turns reading books to around 130 children and then signed autographs for the crowd. South Carolina sophomore combo guard Duane Notice knows that basketball is a big part of his life, but it is not everything. “When I was younger my Dad and Mama always told me that basketball takes you places and use basketball, don’t let basketball use you,” Notice remarked. “I’m a firm believer in that and I think being put in this situation to kind of put the ball in the basket has helped me experience difference aspects off the court.” Notice along with incoming freshman TeMarcus Blanton and McKie continued South Carolina’s “8K in 8 Days” campaign on Friday, July 25 by visiting the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. The trio spent time playing video-


games and other old-fashioned games like Connect Four with different children who were in the hospital. McKie and Blanton both took turns playing Madden NFL 25 and Connect Four, while Notice spent the majority of his time playing Connect Four with children. During the time with the children in the playroom the trio also signed autographs and helped hand out rally towels and tickets to the children. One of the children told McKie he was a Clemson fan so the sophomore took it upon himself to have him say “Go Gamecocks” before he left. Begrudgingly, the child did say “Go Gamecocks” after having a blast spending time with McKie, asking his Dad numerous times if they could stay so he could keep playing Connect Four. After spending time with the group in the playroom, Notice, McKie and Blanton visited a few rooms in the hospital with the trio even singing “Happy Birthday” to a few of the children. Right before leaving, the trio posed for a picture with some of the hospital staff. Martin knows how much the military means to this country and it meant a great deal to him to have his team working with children at Fort Jackson as part of the “8K in 8 Days” campaign on Monday, July 28, 2014. Major General Bradley Becker, who is the commanding officer at Fort Jackson, could not speak highly enough of the efforts of Martin and the Gamecock men’s basketball program. “It’s tremendous,” Becker commented. “What kid doesn’t grow up wanting to someday play college sports: baseball, basketball, soccer, football, so to have these athletes, these top SEC athletes come out, spend some time with these kids, shoot around with them and show them some tips, that’s really great. It means a lot to us. Coach Martin is very active with the Fort Jackson community, not just in sports, but he comes out and gives talks on leadership and team building. His involvement with the Fort is very important to us.” Before the event began, Cocky thrilled the children in attendance by interacting with the crowd. He then proceeded to even show of his basketball skills on the court. Becker and Martin then each spoke with Martin introducing his players to the crowd with the familiar sounds of “2001” blaring over the loudspeakers. After the players were introduced, Martin was presented with a commemorative pen for all his efforts towards Fort Jackson. After the presentation to Martin, the Gamecocks began stretching and then going through drills with the children in attendance at Fort Jackson. The players then signed autographs for everyone in attendance. “8K in 8 Days” concluded the morning of Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at the new

Academy Sports + Outdoors location in the Harbison area of Columbia. Academy Sports + Outdoors treated members of the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia to a $100 gift card that allowed them purchase anything they needed in their efforts to get ready to go back to school. After the shopping spree was over, Martin signed autographs for those in attendance. The children were then told that in addition to all their new gear they were also being treated to a free t-shirt and a ticket to a 2014-15 South Carolina men’s basketball home game on the bus. For Martin the Academy Sports + Outdoors portion of “8K Days in 8 Days” capped off what had been an incredible eight-day experience for his team and staff. “At the end of the day it’s about these young kids,” Martin commented. “Everything we try to do in our community is surrounded trying to impact. Yeah, we want to build a fanbase, we want to create an atmosphere in Colonial Life Arena which is second-to-none and that gives us an advantage in recruiting. That gives us an advantage to win the game that we’re playing on whatever given night, but the bottom line is being able to utilize who we are to impact the young kids in our community. “That’s what the job is really all about because of television and the Internet we’ve put too much emphasis on winning and losing games. I try to make sure our players, our staff and myself that we keep ourselves with understanding that the reality of the job is impacting the young people in the community. To help them to aspire to achieve more and to let them know that if they stay the course that there’s different avenues that they can jump on and find tremendous success,” Martin continued. Season ticket prices for the upcoming season remain unchanged from the 2013-14 campaign, with full season packages starting at $90. Like last season, fans can purchase lower level season tickets for $260 (Gamecock Club membership required for sections 104-106, 113-115) and University faculty and staff can buy tickets for $210. The Coke Family Section is available for $600 (four tickets). Upper level tickets are available for $200 (no Gamecock Club membership required) and faculty and staff can purchase tickets in the upper bowl for $160. End zone seating in the upper level is priced at four seats for $360. To place a deposit for season tickets, fans are encouraged to visit GamecocksOnline.com/Tickets or call 1-800-4SCFANS.

All Gamecock basketball coverage sponsored by Yesterdays.

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Spurs & Feathers • 13


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina senior left guard A.J. Cann has started 38 games over the past three seasons and will lead a group that could be one of the best units in the nation. Cann has led the Gamecock offensive line as a preseason All-American and All-SEC selection while also being named to the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award. Tackles Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell and center Cody Waldrop have received preseason buzz as well, but Cann knows that projections only mean so much. “Well you know it’s a blessing to be named a preseason All-American and receive all these other accolades to be considered with some of the best guys in the country, but I don’t think as a group we pay attention to it. We just have to stay focused, stay hungry, play hard. You know some guys can take the preseason and run with it, but I would rather at the end of the season hopefully be on those lists,” Cann commented. Last season, Cann was the only junior to be named a team captain by his fellow Gamecocks. Head coach Steve Spurrier noted that Cann is a great leader for the team, saying “A.J.’s a lineman, he doesn’t say much but he leads by example … Dylan (Thompson) and A.J. hang around the stadium it seems like all day. They do their workout, they’re lifting and a lot of times they hang around and help the freshmen.” Cann and Thompson have a great relationship and have taken on a dual leadership role for the Gamecocks this year. The two are also roommates at South Carolina, so their relationship extends beyond the football field. “We talk about a lot of things, not just about football. We can go back to each other and figure out what we can do better. Do this, do that, go work on some

14 • Spurs & Feathers

things. Leadership is one of the things that we talk about as well,” Cann said. In a photo that created some buzz, Cann and Thompson were pictured this offseason working together during the wintry weather that hit Columbia, S.C. Cann explained that this was nothing special, but just two players trying to get better. “First off we were in the weight room to begin with and then we wanted to go run some drills on the field. So we were just out there doing some drills in the

snow and somebody took a picture and it blew up somehow. Really we were just out there having fun … there wasn’t to much more to it than us out there working and having a little fun,” Cann said. Thompson noted he is thankful to have such a talented and experienced offensive line protecting him this year. “It’s a huge blessing to be behind those guys. Just watching them work I think is something huge,” Thompson said. “We go in in the morning, then I’ll go in in the afternoon just to get some-

thing in and our offensive line is just in there grinding, putting in extra work. “Just seeing that and knowing those guys care about what they do, that they want to be great themselves is just something that is really encouraging,” Thompson added. There has been speculation that this group could be the best offensive line to play under Spurrier which Cann attributes to their experience. “A lot of the guys now have experience, been playing about two or three years. That’s what it is just having veteran guys, guys that have experience, have been in games and have been playing together that long is pretty solid for us,” Cann explained. “Coach Elliott has been doing a good job of coaching us. “As long as we stay focused, stay humble and keep working hard, I think we’ll have another solid group this year. A lot of people look at us and say we’re one of the best offensive lines coach Spurrier has had, but as long as we keep working hard, we will have the chance to be that,” Cann continued. Spurrier even noted that this talk may have some merit. “The offensive line is about all back. Ronald Patrick is the only one that we’ve lost up front, so these guys could be really good. They could be, but they’ve got to get a little meaner I think, a little tougher, but they are capable,” Spurrier said. “They’ve got a chance to be a real good one. Like I said, they’ve all played a bunch, they’ve just got to go play. They know what to do, now we’ve got to go do it.” Cann said that he hears the talk and knows that the group will have to go out and live up to the hype on the field. “I think as a group, we have a chance to be the best group that we’ve ever had here and I think that we can do that … we just need to go out there and go play, then at the end of the season we’ll see,” Cann said.


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o Jadeveon Clowney. No Kelcy Quarles. No Chaz Sutton. No problem according to South Carolina defensive tackle J.T. Surratt. Surratt, a redshirt senior, has seen these greats and others including Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram star on the defensive line, but he feels confident in the group the Gamecocks can field this season. “We’ve got a lot of talent. Every guy that was overshadowed by what they did last year is going to be put on the front this year. Whatever you put into this year is what you’re going to get out of it and everybody’s ready to go make a name for themselves,� Surratt said. Surratt answered a number of questions throughout the SEC Media Days sessions about the losses on the line, particularly on the loss of Clowney. “I don’t mind answering the question for the simple fact that I want to get those names out there that we’ve got guys who are ready to step up and take on those roles,� Surratt explained. “We believe that we’ve got guys with the character and the mindset ready to get out there, make a lot of noise this year and make a name for themselves. “Those guys, Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon, Jr., Phillip Dukes, Darius English, Mason Harris, they’re ready to get out there and show that we can play,� Surratt continued. Any of these players, including himself, are solid candidates to become the next great Gamecock defensive lineman according to Surratt. He knows that he is going to be one of the anchors of the line as returning with more experience and knows that his leadership will be required with an inexperienced group. “This year I have to step up and let the guys know we’ve got to play and it all starts up front. I’ve been telling these

guys even during the summer that if we keep working, we can be good ‌ we’ve got to keep pushing, got to keep working and doing what we need to be doing to get ready for the season ‌ I have to be able to keep the hunger in them and have to be ready to go at all times,â€? Surratt expounded. Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier gave Surratt a vote of confidence at SEC Media Days as well, saying “J.T. Surratt probably will be one of our senior captains when we do the voting in mid-season. He’s played a lot. I think he started about all the games last year. He’s a good, solid inside player.â€? Surratt said that the offseason work has been great for all the players this year, both the returnees and newcomers, in preparing for what could be a special season. “Everybody coming in and that is already here has the same thing drilled into them every day and that is that we’re not going to stop,â€? Surratt said. “We’re going to keep pushing forward so everybody develops the same hunger, everybody develops the same grind. “We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep this train moving. We’re going to keep showing people that we can compete and we can win,â€? Surratt added. The SEC Media Days experience was one that Surratt enjoyed despite the hectic nature and noted he had one goal at the event. “I like the attention. I like doing stuff like this, but for the most part I really just want to get out here and explain that we’re a young team, but we’ve got guys who are ready to step up and take over,â€? Surratt commented. “That’s what this whole thing is about, just to let people know that South Carolina is not going to fall off. “We’ve got young guys, but they’re hungry just like the rest of us ‌ anybody we play this year we’re going to be ready to win,â€? Surratt concluded.

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By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

Spurs & Feathers • 15


Spurs & Feathers Executive Editor Brian Hand recently sat down with South Carolina baseball head coach Chad Holbrook to discuss a variety of different topics. S&F: You have obviously talked about the way last season ended over and over, but having the time to look back at things since the conclusion of the season, what are you most proud of from the 2014 season? Holbrook: I’m most proud of the regular-season that we had. We went 42-14 in the SEC and playing much of the season without a number of starters, to go 42-14 that was a heck of a regularseason. I don’t know if we could’ve done much better to be honest with you. Finishing the top-four in the league again is a heck of an accomplishment for us in the regular-season. I think us and LSU are the only two teams that have finished in the top-four each of the last two years. The regular-season performance I’m very proud of, but I’m a big enough boy to understand that you’re remembered by what you do in the postseason and we just didn’t play well in the postseason. It was almost like we put all our heart and soul and effort into getting our head above water in the regular-season with all the injuries that occurred, that we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank when the postseason got here. Again, it was a great regular-season, but it was certainly a disappointing performance for us in the postseason. S&F: Are there any things looking back now that you would have done differently last season? Holbrook: You know, through the first 56 games I don’t know if I would have and looking back at the regional, hindsight is always 20/20. I guess the thing that I wrestled with was - and I don’t want this quote to show any disrespect for Campbell at all - but many teams will save their ace for game two and I’m wondering if the scenario would have been different if we would have thrown Crowe or Wynkoop in the first game. With that being said, we still had the opportunities to win game two. Sometimes in the postseason, yes it’s double elimination, but whether you make it or not, whether you move on or not, it comes down to one game, one opportunity, one chance. We had it, but

we just didn’t make it. It was a great college game. We had our opportunities to win it - K-Mart hit the ball off the top of the wall and it doesn’t go out and one of our best hitters is up with the tying run on third in the ninth inning - we had our opportunities to win the game, but we didn’t do it. In 2010 and ‘11 when we had our runs, we were in similar situations - we were behind against The Citadel in game two of the regional, down three or four runs in the sixth inning, but we found a way to come back and win. We were down to Bucknell, 5-1, and came back. We were down against Maryland and had a chance to come back, but we didn’t make the plays to win. That’s what happens in the postseason, it’s just like that (snaps fingers). Your season can hang in the balance on one play and unfortunately when we had that opportunity, we just didn’t make the plays. S&F: You will be entering your third full year as head coach in the 2014-15 athletic year. What have you learned about yourself in the past couple of years? Holbrook: Well, I’ve learned that I have to be more patient than I want to be … in baseball you learn daily from how you organize practice, the way you manage a game, the way you use the bullpen, who you start. You learn every day and I sit there and say ‘I’m kicking myself wondering if starting Jordan Montgomery in game one of the NCAA Tournament was the right move.’ But Florida State didn’t start their No. 1 guy in game one against Georgia Southern and they were two-and-out, you know, and Florida was two-and-out. They’re great programs, great coaches. So did we do anything wrong or did we just not make a play when we need to make a play. Those are things that I wrestle with all the time, but I’d like to think that I’m a lot better coach than I was two years ago because this game teaches you on a daily basis. At the end of the day, we have really good kids, we have really good players and when it comes down to winning and losing, some of your special kids have to make special plays. We’ve had our share of those in which we’ve made them and this year we made them in the regularseason. The Greiners and the Pankakes,

they made some special plays in the regular-season - Schrock with the home run against Ole Miss, Greiner with the walkoff, Greiner with the grand slam against Clemson. We made them, we just didn’t make them at the right time. We made them in the regular-season, not in the postseason. S&F: Your sport is different in that for the most part your studentathletes depart almost immediately after the season to go play in summer leagues. How important are these summer leagues to their progression? How do you look at the summer leagues from your vantage point as head coach? Holbrook: We’re sitting here looking at the numbers today and it’s really encouraging to see what Gene Cone is doing. If you do well, I think that it can give you some great confidence coming into the year. You’re doing it with the wooden bat offensively, you’re getting some hits, you’re feeling better about yourself and you’re playing every day. Gene had to play every day late, but I don’t know if he knew he was going to play every single day that he came to the park. Well now he’s in a position in which he has a lot of confidence and we think that he could be a starter for us. The summer can propel you into that type of mentality that ‘I’m going to start and play every day next year. I’ve got a year of college baseball under my belt, now I’m doing well. I’m ready to go and I’m ready to compete.’ Other scenarios kids aren’t doing so

well. Some of our pitchers have very, very talented arms, but are not pitching the way that we wanted them to. That doesn’t seal their fate. Just to be honest with you, having some failure is not necessarily a bad thing because we know that Matt Vogel, Tyler Haswell and John Parke have great arms. They’re learning how to pitch. You don’t learn how to pitch by not pitching and the fact that they’re getting their innings in, they’re pitching, I think that they’ll come in here this fall much improved and once coach Meyers gets with them, I think they’ll pitch very well. They’ve gone through a bit of a rough patch this summer, but that happens from time to time with young guys. S&F: Are there any players that people may not really know about that you’re expecting to make a big jump from where they were last year throughout the summer into fall practice? Holbrook: I think that Gene has maybe made one, but I don’t think he’s a huge surprise because we saw what he could do last year. Marcus Mooney has worked hard to put on 10 or 15 pounds. I think he’ll be a little bit of a different player this year. He’s a little bit stronger, going to weigh a little bit more. If we can get Max healthy, I think we’ll see the real Max Shrock. I think this summer has really been good for him. I think he’s lost 10 or 15 pounds and been on a pretty strict diet going to physical therapy


every day to help his back. We’ve got some freshmen that can make an impact that I feel very, very good about. They’re in summer school right now, they’re working. Alex Destino, Clark Scolamiero and others that can factor in there. I can’t wait to see those guys perform this fall. It’s going to be really interesting this fall to see what happens behind the plate from our catching standpoint to replace Grayson Greiner. Logan Koch is having a decent summer. It’s important for him to go up there and play. We’ve got a freshman coming him here named Hunter Taylor that is a very talented kid and Jared Martin, a junior college kid from Chathoochee Valley that is more experienced and polished behind the plate. So that will be an interesting battle to watch this fall. That’s a position that is up for grabs and we’ll watch those three compete against each other. S&F: What are you looking forward to the most when fall practice gets under way? Holbrook: Well we’re going to tweak some things with our conditioning program so that the times in which we lift, work out and condition - we believe in our program and what we’ve done for so long - but I still think that you can’t stay where you are. You’ve got to have an open mind to maybe tweak a thing here and there to make yourself better and improve. This fall is going to be important for us to get in the best shape we possibly can, see our kids compete on the field, but ultimately coach Anderson has done an incredible job here for so long. We’ve also got a number of newcomers. We’ve got a number of guys who need to gain strength. Jordan Gore needs to get stronger, Gene Cone needs to get stronger, Logan Koch needs to continue to get his body into better shape and we’ve got other guys that we’re going to have to get in better shape as well as doing well in the classroom. The fall is going to be important obviously because you get to see some new players perform and compete for a position. Who is going to be our centerfielder? Gene Cone, it looks pretty good for him right now the way he’s been playing, but Clark is going to push him and we’ve go others. Brock Maxwell was having a great summer before he got hurt. He was hitting about .430 in a league in Atlanta.

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So it’s going to be interesting to watch some of these guys play and perform that maybe weren’t in the lineup every day last year. The thing that makes me feel a little bit more comfortable is that we’ve got a bunch of familiar faces too that have played at a high level. Max has played at a high level, KMart has played at a high level. DC had a good year for us last year. Marcus played great defense for us and was a spark plug for us offensively. Connor Bright before getting hurt was a steady force for us too. So we’ve got a number of guys with experience of playing in this program. That makes me feel good, but there will be some new energy here with our new players and I’m excited about watching them play. S&F: You seem to have some renewed energy and be pretty excited about what is coming up. Holbrook: I do ... for me there’s a new dynamic. When I took over for coach Tanner many of those kids on that were on the team were ones that I recruited. This group outside of KMart and Connor pretty much, maybe another one here or there, I recruited those guys, but it’s going to be my team so to speak and not the team that me and coach Tanner helped put together. I’m fired up about the talent level and the kids that we’ve got coming in. We’ve got to do some things better, but I think we’ll be a talented group and I think the challenge for us to be successful is, one how good are we going to be behind the plate and two, it’s important for our young pitchers to develop and become confident because if those young guys that are talented don’t throw innings and pitch well for us, we might not be as deep on the mound as we’ve been in the past. It’s also good, I didn’t mention Cody Mincey and Vince Fiori coming back in the bullpen with some experience. That makes me feel good too and I think Josh Reagan is ready to pitch a more significant role for us going forward, so it will be exciting to see how all that pans out this fall. It’s an exciting group and I think my expectations are that we won’t miss a beat. Nationally you might not see us ranked preseason as high, but I think we’ll be as good if not better and we’ll be able to compete against any team that we play. While the faces may change, the goals of this program are not. We expect to be in the top half of the SEC, have a chance to host a regional, have a chance to host a super regional, hopefully play well at the right time and make it Omaha. That’s what the goal is going to be with this group and

it’s a talented group to do it. They should be a motivated group with how the season ended last year. They can’t wait to get back on the field in September to start erasing that taste they have in their mouth and I can assure you that February can’t get here soon enough for me. Often all you remember is that last one and that isn’t the one that we’re proud of. I try like crazy to think about the regular-season, but I can’t get this one out of my mind. It’s been a long offseason, but it’ll all be forgotten once we start practice. I think the day practice starts I’ll finally be out of my misery. It’s going to be a new team. There’s going to be some new blood, new energy. It’s an exciting group. There are going to be some names that our fans haven’t heard of that are going to be playing some prominent roles. I don’t know who those guys are yet. Last year at this time I didn’t know Joel Seddon was going to be our closer. Two years ago we didn’t know Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland were going to be so effective in the bullpen, so I don’t know yet. I feel good about Taylor Widener, I feel good about Wil Crowe and I feel good about Jack Wynkoop, I feel good about Cody Mincey and I love the potential of a lot of our younger pitchers. Those younger pitchers have got to take that next step and you’ve got to have the mentality and the makeup to accept the responsibility. Some do and some don’t; some relish having the ball in their hands with the game on the line and some shy away from it. We’ll see over the course of the next few months who that is. S&F: You talked a little bit about it during the season, but college baseball seems to be at a pretty good point right now. The SEC is still the dominant league, but it seems that more and more teams across the country are becoming better and better. How do you view the college baseball landscape right now? Holbrook: The college baseball landscape is great. College baseball is as popular as it’s ever been. There are things that I think we need to continue to improve upon. I think we’ve made a good move with the new ball that is going to be put into play next year. I think offense will increase. I think it will be a more offensive game than what it has been the last two or three years. There are other things that can be addressed, but right now I think the popularity is at an all-time high, the TV

ratings are good and with the SEC Network coming on all our games are going to be on. We’re going to be a lot more visible. When you get to this point you want to make sure that you have a product that will keep your fans watching the game and I think that with what we’ve done with the ball, it will help keep our fans in tune and keep the common baseball fan watching the games on TV. We know our fans will be here, but from a national perspective I think it was important with the move of the ball. S&F: Off last year’s team you had seven players drafted, numerous former Gamecocks are playing in the Minor Leagues and as of right now eight former Gamecocks have seen action in Major League Baseball. South Carolina has sustained excellence for a long time, but still when you are recruiting these numbers have to help you out considerably in addition to the University of South Carolina being a top-notch institution academically. What is your normal sales pitch? Holbrook: It’s a number of things. One, you get to play in a great league, the best baseball league in the country. Two, I think you play in the nicest baseball facility in the country so you know that you’re going to have a chance to become the best player that you can possibly be with all of the facilities and support that we have here. Three, you get to play in a great atmosphere. It’s very, very rare for a college baseball player to go into a stadium and know that there are going to be seven or eight thousand fans every time you play. There is not another place like that on the East Coast that can provide them that type of atmosphere that South Carolina can provide and a lot of kids like to play in that type of environment. On top of that we have great weather, great fan base, on national TV all the time, great school, great campus, social life is great. There is a lot to sell at the University of South Carolina. When you walk a recruit around here, it’s not a very hard sell. There’s a lot of good programs out there, but we can bring something very, very unique that other programs on the East Coast may not have. Luckily some of the better high school players in the country have decided to play here because of those factors we just mentioned.


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com 15 … 5 … Go! To us that sequence may seem meaningless or rather just a normal countdown, but to the South Carolina women’s soccer team it means it is time to grind. Last year, the Gamecock women’s soccer team finished with an overall record of 17-4-2 (8-2-1 SEC). The Gamecocks were a perfect 11-0-0 at home. South Carolina won an NCAA Tournament game, but they just missed out on an SEC regular-season championship and they did not progress as far as they desired in the NCAAs. Ranked 10th nationally in the Top Drawer Soccer early NCAA Division I women’s top-10 released on April 23, 2014, South Carolina women’s soccer has everything in place this season to be in the running for the SEC regular-season championship and the SEC Tournament championship, while also making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and they are grinding this offseason to make sure their hopes and dreams could maybe one day become reality. This past July the Gamecock women’s soccer team worked hard with Strength and Conditioning Graduate Assistant Alex Buchman to have the conditioning level they need for the grueling 2014 season. Dubbed by Director of Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning coach Billy Anderson as one of the “hardest working teams” at South Carolina, the Gamecock women’s soccer team proved that team camaraderie by arriving for their early-morning workout on Friday, July 11 as a team. In fact, scheduled to be there at 6:30 a.m. the team arrived at 6:15 a.m. to get things underway for the tough workout. Buchman had arrived at 5:50 a.m. to begin his work in getting the team ready. Excited and ready to go despite sunlight just creeping on to the practice pitch the Gamecocks started going through their warmup exercises at approximately 6:20 a.m. The warmups included various 18-yard exercises including down and backs, backpedaling, high knees, glides, high knees, stretch and reach, knee pulls, cradle walks, lateral lunges, quads, reaches and reverse twists. After completing these warmups the Gamecocks advanced to do numerous up and overs on the hurdles. After controlled work with bands, the Gamecocks progressed to three hops through cones and then kicks through cones, left and right angled. The hops,

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which particularly help with trying to thwart off ACL injuries, are part of an injury reduction plan in place for the upcoming season. At around 6:35 a.m. the Gamecocks moved into bounds before quick and easy sprints gave way to a couple of hard 18-yard sprints. After a quick water break the Gamecocks moved into group shuttle work where they focused on quickness. During the stretch, Anderson consistently shouted out to the Gamecocks about how important it is to keep their feet moving. The Gamecocks went hard through these drills for about 15 minutes before taking another water break just before 7 a.m. Right after 7 a.m. the Gamecocks commenced progression sprints, which included 20 yards and back, 40 yards and back, 60 yards and back, 80 yards and back and 100 yards and back. The Gamecocks quickly did 14 20yard sprints with 20 seconds between each sprint. What followed was 14 40yard sprints with 35 seconds in-between each sprint. The familiar 15 … 5 … Go! sequence permeated each sprint with the Gamecocks lining up and Buchman yelling out the timing. Despite putting them through the rigor of the sprints, Buchman and Anderson were always coaching and if needed kept reminding the team that they needed to get down into the ground and explode through every sprint. This is where the team was really shining as the Gamecocks treated every sprint as if it defined their season, giving high fives to each other along with encouragement. A common refrain from the student-athletes was “we have to do this for the ring.” After the 20-yard and 40-yard sprints and a three-minute water break the Gamecocks did 10 60-yard sprints with 45 seconds the only thing between them and the next sprint. 15 … 5 … Go! Six 80-yard sprints with 1:05 inbetween then gave way to one final 100-yard run. After completing the tenuous 30-plus minute progression sprint stretch, the Gamecocks treated it as if they had just finished a game by going through normal after game lines and congratulating each other. After a slow lap around the field the team had one final good stretch before Anderson and Buchman reminded them to focus on recovery from the tough early-morning workout. During a huddle with the team shortly thereafter, Anderson made sure

the team knew that he felt as if they were ahead conditioning-wise of where they were at the same time last year, while also laying down the gauntlet that it was going to be a busy five, six months ahead and that he is not asking them to give their everything for the entire year coming up, but until late November, early December when the NCAA Women’s College Cup concludes in Boca Raton, Fla. Dec. 5 and 7. After the team huddled one final time, Buchman noted the ultimate goal of these July voluntary workouts. “The ultimate goal now is No. 1 we want to stay healthy going into preseason (practice),” Buchman commented. “It’s three weeks and we have a group of freshmen come in and we try and push them along as well as we can. In our last workout in April we spoke as a group and we all decided that July we come back for fitness; that’s why we’re here, but to kind of take that next step forward that the team’s been talking about we wanted to focus more on a mentality of the season, so it’s the little things that we try and take a part of each workout. “We haven’t really made any huge wholesale changes. It’s just a mentality and attitude - I always speak about attitude with them. This team as a whole it’s great leadership top-to-bottom and it’s one thing from me to coaches to have to get on players at times, that’s what we do, but when you see the players getting on each other, but also encouraging each other that’s what makes it a fun environment to come be a part of. It shows they care. They care enough to get on each other, to push each other and ultimately that’s what’s making everything more of a competi-

tive nature, which is really what I want,” Buchman continued. Buchman, who also assists with men’s and women’s golf and baseball at South Carolina, was proud of the ambition and drive of the team in their offseason preparations. “It’s early in the morning, they come out at 6:30 (a.m.) and we try to make everything purpose-driven,” Buchman said. “We’re not out here just running to run. We’re running in groups now, we’re running by positions. I want them running with the players they’re competing with … so everything is always a purpose to come out, but also to try and make it as competitive as possible. That’s when you see later on in the workouts you might have some that are tired, fatigued, but they’re pushing through and that’s what we want. Every time they come, they come ready to go. (Associate head coach) Jamie (Smith) and (head coach) Shelley (Smith) do a great job with this team - and I’ve only been here for a year and a half - but from a team standpoint they’re great to work with. They come ready to work. The leadership on this team speaks volumes.” The 2014 South Carolina women’s soccer schedule features 11 home games to go along with the tough SEC slate. The Gamecocks will play a total of six teams in the 2014 season that played in the NCAA Tournament last year. After an exhibition at Duke in Durham, N.C. on Aug. 14, South Carolina commences its 2014 schedule with five of its first six regular-season at home. After opening at East Carolina on Aug. 22 the Gamecocks return home for five consecutive home games. The first of the five straight home games is at 6 p.m. on Aug. 24 against Samford.


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he offseason is when players can improve and the S.C. Pro-Am provides collegiate players the chance to do just that. The league provides great competition with some of the best current and former players from South Carolina’s Division I and II programs participating. Commissioner and former Gamecock Carey Rich created the league to allow for players to compete at a high level and work to improve their games during the summer. “The main idea is to create and generate a safe and competitive environment for high-level competition,” Rich explained. “One of the toughest challenges for coaches is trying to make sure that your kids are outside of practice, that they are involved in playing basketball against competition that is comparable, playing against guys that are as good or even better because you want to bring out the best in your guys.” The S.C. Pro-Am featured eight teams and had a Gamecock flavor to it with the current players and some former standouts like Devan Downey and Carlos Powell competing. Each team could have

only two players from the same college on its roster, so Gamecocks were able to play together and compete against one another pushing each other to improve. Four of the six players on the S.C. Pro-Am All Pro-Am first-team were Gamecocks in junior forward Michael Carrera, sophomore combo guard Duane Notice, incoming freshman guard Marcus Stroman and sophomore combo guard Sindarius Thornwell. South Carolina sophomore guard Justin McKie was on the second-team, while junior forward Brian Steele was named Pro-Am Honorable Mention. Gamecock greats Powell and Zam Frederick were also secondteam selections, while Downey was Honorable Mention All Pro-Am. While head coach Frank Martin could not attend the games due to NCAA rules, the buzz around Columbia made him aware that there was great progress for some players while keeping the fan base involved with basketball during the summer. “That’s the advantage of having a Pro-Am. No. 1 it gives guys confidence. Michael (Carrera), who didn’t have a great year last year, from what I understand is playing real well at the Pro-Am,” Martin commented. “Well, that helps Michael playing in front of fans, playing in game

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situations to have success. It helps his psyche going into the year. It removes him from whatever his mind was telling him at the end of last year. “Then lastly, in the community, fans continue to read and hear about guys playing basketball in July. Our guys success on the court in the Pro-Am when the community finds out about it, gets them even more excited to come out and see them play once November hits,” Martin continued. The summer league schedule ran for about two weeks of regular-season games (five for each team) then had three straight days of playoffs finishing up on July 29. Rich noted the schedule allowed for good competition without taking the whole summer and he felt it created a great showcase for basketball in the state. “Having the Pro-Am kind of gets you ready for the season so to speak,” Rich said. “I’m stubborn enough to believe that there is a huge basketball fanbase in Columbia and South Carolina … regardless of what people want to say about this being a football state. I get that, I accept that and I realize that, but I also know there is a huge contingency of basketball fans because I lived it … I think it’s great because basketball is all over the

news in July and that’s huge. “I think that by far this was the best year when you think about every variable that comes into the summer league. From shortening the league, having more fans a part of it, the commitment from the players was great and most importantly the talent level from top to bottom was the best that we’ve had in three years of doing this. I think it was a win-win for everybody involved - us as the organizers, the players and the fans,” Rich concluded.

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By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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outh Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin is not shy about the way his team

feels. “We respect everybody, but we fear nobody,” Martin commented. “We understand that winning is difficult. We don’t take that for granted. We don’t feel like ours is better than yours, but we believe in who we are and we’re going to believe that we’re good enough to go get the job done.” This mindset is one of the reasons Martin and his staff have put together a challenging nonconference schedule to prepare the Gamecocks for the grind that is the SEC. South Carolina’s 2014-15 nonconference schedule released on Tuesday, July 22 features the Gamecocks having home games against Big 12 juggernauts Baylor (Nov. 18) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 6) along with rival Clemson visiting the Colonial Life Arena on Dec. 19. The Gamecocks will open their 2014-15 regular-season on Nov. 14 at the Colonial Life Arena against North Florida. After the aforementioned game with Baylor, South Carolina will then participate in the Gildan Charleston Classic (Nov. 20-23) at the TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. South Carolina will welcome UNC Asheville of the Big South on Nov. 26 before leaving the Palmetto State for the first time to take on Marshall of Conference USA on Dec. 1. The Oklahoma State game will follow before the Gamecocks break for final exams and preparations for the Clemson rivalry showdown. Two days after the rivalry game, South Carolina will tangle with NCAA Division II foe Coker of the South Atlantic Conference at the Colonial Life Arena on Dec. 21. After breaking for the holidays, South Carolina returns home to square off against North Carolina A&T of the MEAC on Dec. 30. South Carolina’s final nonconference tilt of the year is a neutral site contest against Iowa State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Jan. 3. Martin feels there are many reasons why the Gamecocks need to have such a daunting nonconference schedule. “I like recruiting real good players,” Martin noted. “Real good players like to play on television. To play on television, you’ve got to play quality basketball games. So we’ve got to schedule that

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way. Usually the way it works is when we win those kind of games, I go in the office and I’ll say that was a great job by me finding that team and when we don’t win I’ll go in the office the next day and I’ll ask Andy Assaley (director of men’s basketball operations), why the heck he scheduled that game? It’s a lot easier on coaches’ lives when you figure out a way to schedule when you have 10, 11 wins before you enter January. You sleep a little better when you’re going into a game and you know you’re better than the other team on paper. When you’re constantly challenging your team it gets real stressful because what happens is come January your days tend to disappear because you’re so consumed with every opponent because every game is so hard. If you schedule that way in nonconference play it makes it for a long five and a half months. “With all that said, that’s the way it needs to be. You’re not fooling anybody in this business. If you can’t win in league play, you don’t need to try and trick people into you’re good when you’re not. We’re all going to get judged by how we succeed in our conference. You have to prepare your team for league play and I think our team continues to take steps forward and the program continues to step forward where we need to start preparing for what it’s like to be a good basketball team. That only comes by continuing to challenge it,” Martin expounded. Martin also knows that a tougher nonconference schedule is good for everyone associated with the program, particularly for his players, the fans and the SEC. “You get out of bed and it’s human nature you get more juiced up to go against the popular team than you do to go against the team that maybe no one knows as much about,” Martin remarked. “We have a duty to our fans. We have a duty to our team and we have a duty to the SEC. Those are the three groups of people that we have to make sure we prepare for and make things the right way for them. We’re getting our fans quality opponents and challenging our team to face reality right off the bat and be prepared for conference play and we’re doing something positive for our conference by playing the kind of schedule that gives us a strong (RPI) number, which in essence gives our conference a strong number. At the end of the day that’s our responsibility across the board.”


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emetrius Henry joined the South Carolina men’s basketball program with solid height, but not much bulk to go along with that height. Because of this his freshman season was up and down due to the rigors of playing high-major college basketball at 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds. Despite his size, youth and having to learn the grueling aspects of the SEC on the fly like so many other Gamecocks last year, Henry still managed to start the second-most games for South Carolina in the 2013-14 season with 29 starts. Only Sindarius Thornwell played in more Gamecock games as he started all 34 games for the Gamecocks last year. Henry concluded his inaugural season in a Gamecock uniform averaging 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He shot 41.4 percent (63-for-152) from the field in the 2013-14 season in 18 minutes of action per game. Affectionally known as “Meat,” Henry has taken it upon himself in the months between his freshman and sophomore seasons as a Gamecock to add weight and focus on the little things in his efforts to get better. As of mid-July, Henry had put on over 10 pounds and was just a few pounds away of his goal of 230. “I’m working every week,” Henry said. “The weight coaches are pushing me. It’s mostly eating a lot and making sure I’m eating. There’s times where I eat twice a day … so I try to eat when I can

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and I’m going in the weight room at least four times a week.” Henry’s Gamecock teammates are taking notice of his efforts this offseason. “Meat’s working on his game a lot,” Thornwell elaborated. “In May a lot of us went home and he didn’t. He stayed here, got stronger and got better and worked on his game. It’s just showing in the Pro-Am. He’s finishing a lot of those shots that he missed last year.” According to Henry playing in the SC Pro-Am League this summer has helped him immensely as he has had the chance to go against top-level competition on a regular basis. He admits playing against the best makes “you go to another level and play bigger than their level.” “(I’m) playing against high-level guys like (former Clemson and current professional) Milton Jennings - he’s a (former) McDonald’s All-American - (former Gamecock men’s basketball great and current professional) Carlos Powell, (current Gamecock) Laimonas Chatkevicius, so every game I’m going against someone who’s a pro or a high-level Division I player so that’s what’s helping me a lot,” Henry relayed. In his SC Pro-Am opener on Thursday, July 10, Henry faced off against Powell and he finished his evening with 15 points and eight rebounds. He was 6-for-12 from the field in the contest. Henry concedes he is getting more comfortable every time he steps on the floor, particularly with rebounding, which is an area that he was challenged by South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin. “You just have to have an attitude that you want to rebound everything,” Henry said. “It’s just an attitude and an approach to it.” By no means has Henry accomplished everything that he has wanted

to this summer, but he likes the direction he is headed. “It’s always a process,” Henry expounded. “I’m working every day. I’m working on my craft every day. Everything is coming along pretty good, I just got to keep working.” Thornwell believes that if Henry is able to become a force inside then big things will be ahead for the Gamecocks in the 2014-15 season.

“It’s big,” Thornwell concluded. “It’s real big. It would give us an inside presence where teams have to respect our big men this year whereas last year when they caught the ball in the high post they weren’t even out there, they were standing in the paint. So this year they’ve got to respect him and Mindaugas (Kacinas) and Laimonas (Chatkevicius) out there shooting the ball well so hopefully they just keep it up.”

THE TERRY BISHOP TEAM

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Spurs & Feathers • 21


By Ed Girardeau ed@spursandfeathers.com Before there was Bruce Ellington playing two sports at USC, there was a football and baseball player who made a name for himself in the 1970s. For those 50-years-old or older and have been Gamecocks all their lives, number 12 in football means one thing – Jeff Grantz. A graduate of Belair High School in Maryland, Grantz was recruited by then head football coach Paul Dietzel, but that was not to be all for which he was recruited. “The reason South Carolina was my choice was because I wanted to play baseball, too,” Grantz remarked. “Baseball coach Bobby Richardson had a lot to do with that. Eddie Ford was the shortstop at the time and Coach Richardson had his father Whitey Ford (New York Yankee hall of famer) call me, which made quite an impact.” Most schools were recruiting him as a football player only or wanted him to not

22 • Spurs & Feathers

play baseball his freshman year. “My Dad (Chuck Grantz) was a coach and athletic director and he pretty much ran the recruiting process,” Grantz noted. “My Dad said you don’t want to take a year off from baseball. You’ve got to keep playing.” The Baltimore Orioles drafted Grantz in 1972, but he turned them down and the likes of Michigan and Penn State in football. “All I wanted to do was play two sports, have great teammates and win,” Grantz said. “I was taught it was all about the team and winning.” Grantz was a freshman in the fall of 1972. He played sparingly for the football team, but started for the baseball team in the spring of 1973, mostly at second base. It wasn’t until the fall of 1973 that people began to take note. His sophomore year in football Grantz rushed for a total 806 yards, which included a memorable game against Ohio where he rushed for what was the most yards rushing in one game at the time: 260 yards (Brandon Bennett 278, 1991).


“I had an 80 yard kickoff return for a touchdown in that same game,” Grantz recollected. The effort won him Sports Illustrated’s National Player of the week. Grantz recalled running an abbreviated quarterback draw, where he would stand up, take a step back, and let the play develop in front. It worked very effectively against Clemson that year. “The noseguard would pick a side and Darrell Austin would push him which ever side he wanted to go, the guards would take the linebackers and I would just make my break,” Grantz commented. “I think I had 130 something yards that day.” It was actually 185 yards in leading South Carolina over the Tigers, 32-20. His junior year was forgettable in football, as he tore his meniscus against Mississippi. “That was kind of a tough year. We were supposed to be better than we were,” Grantz recalled. The injury healed in time for baseball season. They had made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1974, but in 1975, still in Grantz’s junior year, the Gamecocks made their first trip to the College World Series. USC finished runner-up and ended its season at 51-61, which is still the best winning percent-

age ever at Carolina. “Huge talent on that team,” Grantz, who can name every player who pitched and played off the top of his head, said. “There were no weaknesses at all. That was a lot of fun. We had a great time and a lot of talent on that team.” Grantz still holds the record for best fielding percentage in a career for shortstop and second base. “Those are the only two records, I still have at USC and those are good ones,” Grantz said smiling. Grantz had something to prove his senior year in football. Coach Dietzel left and Jim Carlen was in. The only guarantee for his senior year was that he would be the punter. “Looking back, that was kind of an honor because Max Runager was there and he ended up punting in the NFL for a long time and when you look back that’s a good thing to be able to say,” Grantz remembered fondly. It turned out that Ron Bass, the QB in waiting, would blow out his knee in the first scrimmage of the fall, making Grantz not only the punter, but the quarterback as well. Grantz led the team to a 7-5 record and a trip to the old Tangerine Bowl in Florida. Grantz saved his best for last with a

56-20 drumming of Clemson in Columbia. He rushed for 122 yards and he threw for 158 more and five touchdowns, the last being a touchdown pass on his last play. “I threw a wobbly, gnarly pass, and everybody says I was running up the score,” Grantz mused. “If you can’t stop somebody on 4th and goal from the 20 and a guy makes a diving catch in the end zone, well, I’m sorry, but I was not going to take a knee. Certainly not on my last play at Williams-Brice Stadium.” The 56 points are the most ever scored by South Carolina against Clemson. All these years later, Grantz is taking on a new career, that of a real estate agent, after years of working in the distribution industry. “My wife, Jill, has been successful in real estate for about 10 years now,” Grantz concluded. “So I’ve got a great mentor from which to learn.” They work together at Russell and Jeffcoat and will work the areas they are most familiar with, particularly around the stadium. After all, Grantz spent four great years around Columbia setting records in football and baseball. May as well add a few more in the real estate field.

Coming soon:

The life story of Gamecock football legend Steve Wadiak (by Mike Chibbaro). More information in the next Spurs & Feathers newspaper edition.

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com The inaugural INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field on Saturday, July 19 was scheduled to be a seven-inning contest. One team was to be coached by South Carolina women’s basketball head coach and game organizer Dawn Staley, while the other was to be coached by South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner. All week there was friendly banter back and forth between Staley and Tanner on social media and even after seven innings there was still no resolution as Staley’s team was leading 11-5 at what should have been the end point of the game. The two teams kept playing though and Tanner’s squad came back and took a 13-12 victory before the game was halted for a fireworks show for those in attendance. When asked after the game who the real winner was the duo jokingly had a difference of opinions, but both agreed on one key thing: “it was all about the kids” and they were the real winners in the end. “The way the people of South Carolina have supported everything I’ve done from our women’s basketball program to now INNERSOLE it goes to show how caring they are about what we do,” Staley commented. “I think it was a tremendous turnout even with the threat of rain and we got and it in and people came out and supported it. I think overall it was tremendous event.” The inaugural event featured a seven-inning softball game in a relaxed atmosphere between former Gamecock players, coaches, local officials, media personalities, current SEC coaches, current NFL players, former WNBA players and Olympians, which included Staley. Celebrities that participated included Alshon Jeffrey, Justice Cunningham, Cliff Matthews, Tanner, Nell Fortner, Sheriff Lott, George Rogers, Judi Gatson, Terri Williams Flournoy, Cynthia Cooper, Corey Miller, Forrest Alton, Michael Haley, Duane Parrish, Darian “Big Tigger” Morgan, Derek Phillips and Beverly Smith. Morgan was joined at the event by his girlfriend, Keisha Knight Pulliam. The INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser was done in an effort to help raise $75,000, which INNERSOLE believes will give them the resources they need to have adequate funding to

24 • Spurs & Feathers

support their endeavors in the 2014-15 academic year. According to Staley the money is to support the Educate My Sole challenge “that will be implemented in BurtonPack Elementary School this upcoming year where we challenge all of the second grade, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade classes to achieve in four areas, which is physical fitness, grades, behavior and attendance. So we’ve hit all the areas where if they achieve at a cer-

a bunch to her. One of the neat things about our athletic department is that we have a bunch of coaches that try to give back to the community. This is a cause that’s near and dear to Dawn’s heart so it’s neat to see the community pitch in, the athletic department pitch in. “For me one of the neat things is seeing coach Tanner in the dugout for the first time in a long time. That’s pretty cool … we have a great, tightknit athletic department and obviously this is something that means something to

ing and after the first-ever INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser. “I had a lot of fun this week (leading up to game),” Tanner relayed. “This is for a wonderful cause. A couple months back when coach Staley asked me if I would take part in the celebrity softball game, I was excited and she quickly told me that I’m not a celebrity and I would just be coaching. It put me in my place pretty quick. I had a chance to do the draft. I took the draft seriously and she took all the politicians in the city and all the people of influence, although I like

tain level they’re going to be successful.” The head softball coach at South Carolina, Smith was more than willing to turn over the use of her facility for such a great event like the INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser. “I think coach Staley and INNERSOLE have really made this a special event outside with the VIP tent - I just saw the Governor (Nikki Haley) under the tent - everybody is out there socializing (preevent), it’s really a festive atmosphere … I’ve enjoyed meeting the other celebrities and I think it’s just bringing great awareness and hopefully some money to coach Staley’s foundation. I think it’s really important to support it. “I think it’s just indicative of here at South Carolina. We like to support each other. It’s for a good cause and any time we can help each other out we like to do that. I’m happy to share the facility for this great cause,” Smith continued. South Carolina head baseball coach Chad Holbrook reiterated Smith’s thoughts. “It’s awesome,” Holbrook remarked. “Obviously, this is a cause that means

coach Tanner and we’re all excited about pitching in and helping coach Staley out in her cause,” Holbrook expounded. Coming off a Pro Bowl season last year and just days away from returning to training camp with the Chicago Bears, Jeffery still put aside time to play in the INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game Fun-Raiser. “I was coming back home and just wanted to support coach Staley and her staff and also have a good time playing softball,” Jeffery said. “Coach Staley’s just powerful throughout the whole state of South Carolina, not just only in Columbia. She’s a very special woman.” Tanner felt so strongly about the INNERSOLE cause that he put off his vacation a couple days to attend the event. “We were scheduled to leave town yesterday and when this came together, I said I just don’t want to miss that,” Tanner articulated. “I want to be a part of the reason we’re having this INNERSOLE Celebrity Softball Game. It’s exciting and we’re having a lot of fun with it and it is for a great cause.” Tanner had a great time before, dur-

my roster. We’ve had a lot of fun with this and we’re excited about the cause that we’re playing for.” The great cause also as alluded to by Holbrook gave the two-time national championship-winning head coach the opportunity to be back in a place he has missed. “I’ll be honest with you, I love the job I have right now, but I miss at times being in the dugout,” Tanner mused. “I don’t miss so much some of the things that go along with coaching, but I miss being in the dugout.” Chance to be back in the dugout during the event aside, Tanner is pleased with the overall growth and direction that INNERSOLE has taken under Staley’s watchful eyes. “Anything that she (Staley) takes on it’s a wonderful impression,” Tanner elaborated. “She embraces this city, she embraces Gamecock Nation and people believe in her. If she endorses something there are people that are going to come behind. That just speaks volumes about who she is as a person and not just a basketball coach.”


By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

S

outh Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier wants Clemson to have a good football team believe it or not. Sitting on a stage with Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney along with Wofford head coach Mike Ayers, Furman head coach Bruce Fowler, The Citadel head coach Mike Houston and SC State head coach Buddy Pough as part of Fisher DeBerry’s South Carolina Coaches for Charity event in the Carolina Ballroom at the Marriot in downtown Columbia he made it readily known he was behind the Tigers. “Clemson’s done well,” Spurrier noted. “I’ve been bragging on you guys. I really have. The better they do when we beat them it makes us look better. You don’t want to beat somebody with a bad record.” Spurrier followed up his comments on the Tigers by noting that The Bleacher Report considered South Carolina the top college football state in the country this year, saying “hard to believe, but college football in our state is the best. There’s no question about it right now.” Spurrier also pointed out that he, even if things do change dramatically in the world of college athletics in the coming months, still wants to be able to play the

FCS state schools in South Carolina like The Citadel, Furman, SC State and Wofford. Later Spurrier and Swinney also continued to promote enhancing college athletic scholarships. Spurrier along with Gamecock starting quarterback Dylan Thompson represented South Carolina at the Fisher DeBerry South Carolina Coaches for Charity event on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, which is held to raise money for the Fisher DeBerry foundation along with other charities such as Spurrier’s HBC Foundation, Inc. and Swinney’s Dabo’s All-In Team Foundation. WIS-TV’s Rick Henry and college football coaching legend Art Baker served as the emcees. This was the fifth year of the Coaches for Charity fundraiser with the evening featuring a silent auction and cocktails to start things off before the dinner, program

and live auction encompassed the rest of the evening. In the first four years of South Carolina Coaches for Charity the event raised nearly $500,000 for various charitable organizations and the fifth edition of the event was no different as all indications pointed to a great deal of money being raised throughout the course of the evening. During the live auction the auctioneer even accidentally called Swinney’s wife Mrs. Spurrier to which the Clemson head coach later jokingly noted that they are in the process of trying to turn around the South Carolina five-game winning streak in the series obviously but now they’re even trying to get my wife involved and

“I’m going to draw the line in the sand right there.” After the coaches took part in a short question and answer session each school honored its Jerry Richardson Community MVP Award winner with Thompson garnering the award from Spurrier and South Carolina. The newly engaged Thompson was appreciative of the honor and being able to represent the University at the charity event. “It’s always fun to be around good people and just hang out,” Thompson remarked. “It doesn’t have to be all business all the time. This is something a lot more important than football, just impacting kids and doing it for the right reasons and I think it’s a good thing to be a part of.” Spurrier agreed with Thompson’s thoughts on the charity event. “Fisher DeBerry and his foundation do a super job,” Spurrier said. “What they do with some innercity kids, kids from difficult backgrounds, they send them to camp, get them in a Christian environment, teach them some lifeskills, make life better for these young men who might not have had a chance. I think all of us coaches really enjoy doing this.”

• Mark Fields, Jr...........................DB.......... 5-11......... 184............ Cornelius, N.C. • Antoine Wilder..........................DB.......... 5-11......... 175............ Atlanta, Ga. • Jaire Alexander.........................DB.......... 5-11......... 170............ Charlotte, N.C. • Octavis Johnson.......................DB.......... 6-0........... 183............ Homerville, Ga. • Damon Arnette.........................DB.......... 6-2........... 185............ Fort Lauderdale, Fla. • Shamiek Blackshear.................DE.......... 6-5........... 230............ Bluffton, S.C. • Arden Key..................................DE.......... 6-6........... 217............ Atlanta, Ga. • Dante Sawyer............................DE.......... 6-3........... 250............ East Mississippi J.C. • Quandeski Whitlow..................DE.......... 6-3........... 221............ Opelika, Ala. • Marquavius Lewis.....................DE.......... 6-4........... 270............ Hutchinson J.C. (Kan.) • Sherrod Pittman.......................LB........... 6-1........... 215............ Jacksonville, Fla. • Jalen Henry...............................LB........... 6-0........... 220............ Foley, Ala. • Da’Von Durant..........................LB........... 6-2........... 225............ Butler J.C. (Kan.) • Paris Palmer..............................OL.......... 6-8........... 330............ Lackawanna J.C. (Pa.) • Jozie Milton...............................OL.......... 6-3........... 290............ Clinton, La. • Austin Clark...............................OL.......... 6-6........... 295............ Lexington, Va. • Lorenzo Nunez..........................QB.......... 6-2........... 190............ Kennesaw, Ga. • AJ Turner...................................RB........... 5-11......... 190............ Centreville, Va. • Mon Denson..............................RB........... 6-0........... 215............ LaGrange, Ga. • Kyle Markway............................TE........... 6-4 ........... 220............ St. Louis, Mo. • Connor Redmond.....................TE........... 6-4........... 230............ Decatur, Ga. • DJ Neal.......................................WR.......... 6-3........... 175............ Stone Mountain, Ga. • Jerad Washington.....................WR.......... 5-11......... 165............ Jacksonville, Fla. • Michael Bowman......................WR.......... 6-0........... 185............ Havelock, N.C. • Jalen Christian..........................WR.......... 5-10......... 173............ Damascus, Md.

2015 Commitments as of Aug. 4

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Spurs & Feathers • 25


By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

F

rank “Buzz” Rogers and his family have strong ties to the University of South Carolina and since his youngest son, Scott, lives a stone’s throw from Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecock football has become a family tradition. Rogers of Florence, S.C. is a 1969 graduate of South Carolina with a BS in accounting and is a founding member Webster Rogers LLP, the state’s secondlargest CPA firm with nine offices in eastern South Carolina. “I owe a lot of that to the accounting degree I obtained at Carolina,” Rogers noted. The family is filled with South Carolina graduates including wife Rae (1975 BS in nursing), Scott (2013 BS in finance and in real estate) and Scott’s fiancée Savannah Cockfield (2012 BS in Nursing). Rogers’ grandson Manny is also an avid Gamecock fan and tremendously enjoyed attending Frank Martin’s basketball camp a few summers ago with Rogers commuting from Florence to pick him up each day “usually ending up at one of the Gamecock apparel stores loading him up with Gamecock clothing. We stayed in the hotel across from the practice facility and had a great week together.” The only non-South Carolina graduate in the family is still a big Gamecock fan and Rogers describes him as “the famous and interesting one.” That is Rogers’ son Frank who is a music producer and songwriter in Nashville. He graduated from Belmont University which offered a program for music business with business courses and record production, audio engineering, studio electronics and others. “Even though he didn’t go to South Carolina, he’s always been a big fan. I’ve got 14 people going to the Vanderbilt game (in Nashville),” Rogers explained. “Also we always meet him in Tennessee for the Tennessee game.” “I’ve been a Gamecock fan since I could walk … just love going to games and I’m a huge football fan,” Frank confirmed. “My son and I usually go to at least one home game and one away game a year, but we try to do more than that … the Vandy game is always a big deal for us. We’ll have everybody over on Friday night, cook out at the house and just make a big weekend of it, so it’ll be fun. It’s always a lot more fun when we win too.” Rogers said for the first time Frank made it down for Thanksgiving and the Carolina-Clemson game last year. Scott noted that since the Gamecocks won, this will now become a family tradition. Frank has produced and written many songs and albums with country musicians in Nashville, Tenn. He has received numerous music industry awards and has

produced more than 35 No. 1 singles. His songwriting credits include the No. 1 hits: “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song)” by Brad Paisley and “Alright” and “This” by South Carolina’s own Darius Rucker Frank has worked closely with Rucker and also singer Josh Turner, a Clemson fan, as artists with Palmetto State ties. He moved to Nashville the year the Gamecocks joined the SEC, but was still in the minority with few Gamecock fans around. “The Carolina-Clemson game would roll around and I’d have nobody to celebrate or be miserable with,” Frank explained. “Then I started working with this singer named Josh Turner who is a big Clemson fan and we started having fun with it. Then I started working with Darius and we had that tie as Gamecock fans. “There was one day, the Monday after the Carolina-Clemson game, and I was working with Darius that morning and Josh that afternoon … so Darius and I had a big time that morning talking about it and I told him that Josh was coming in the afternoon. He said ‘well, I was supposed to go somewhere else, but I’m going to hang around so you and I can give Josh some [crap],’” Frank continued. Another South Carolina tie-in from Frank is that he wrote the hit baseballthemed song “Swing” by Trace Adkins and Buzz tells a story about a trip to Carolina Stadium. “Wayne Hiott (Assistant Director of the Gamecock Club) invited us to a baseball game in Ray Tanner’s box this summer and I reminded Ray about this song and the fact there were only three or four baseball songs in existence. One of them written by a South Carolinian who is an rabid Gamecock fan and by the next game they had it integrated into the rotation at the games,” Rogers said. While the Rogers family did not always get to many games in the past due to the competitive water skiing season which ran into late October, since Scott came to the University in 2008 they retired from competitive water skiing and attended all the home games, many away games and bowl games as well. Both Buzz (former national top-10 overall senior mens division) and Scott (three-time state overall champion of slalom, trick and jump in the boys division) found success water skiing, but today football takes up Saturdays in the fall. Rogers said that his wife Rae is also invested in all Gamecock sports saying, “she may be the most diehard fan in the group. She watches all of the baseball games we can get on the Gamecocks Online feature, wears Garnet and Black at home when watching or listening to any Gamecock games, listens to 107.5 coming home from work and she won’t be left

behind on a football road trip.” Gamecock football truly has become a family affair for the Rogers family. “I had the good fortune to be at Carolina when Tommy Suggs was playing,” Rogers said. “Scott has the incredible good fortune to have been at Carolina when Steve Spurrier has put South Caro-

lina football on the national scene. “Now as a family we are able to enjoy the fall football season as it has become our family sport. My knees are about shot, but all I have to be able to do is walk up the stadium seats and stand up and scream while twirling my white sandstorm towel,” Rogers added.

Spurs & Feathers • 27


By Brian Hand and Mike Kucharski bhand@spursandfeathers.com/ mike@spursandfeathers.com

Women’s Soccer

South Carolina women’s soccer commences the 2014 season looking to not only compete for the SEC regular-season championship and SEC Tournament title, but also nationally. Last year, the Gamecocks finished with the second-best record in school history at 17-4-2. South Carolina just missed out on claiming the SEC regular-season championship, won and NCAA Tournament game and finished the year with the first perfect undefeated home record in program history at 11-0-0. In addition, South Carolina women’s soccer claimed the NSCAA’s Team Academic Award and Team Ethics Awards. The Gamecock women’s soccer team also picked up the South Carolina Athletics Department Community Outreach Team of the Year award. South Carolina women’s soccer head coach Shelley Smith stopped short of saying anything less than an SEC championship would be a disappointment in the upcoming year.

“I think it’s an expectation for sure,â€? Smith elaborated. “We’re capable of it  ‌ we feel we’ll be in the mix to compete for a championship. Sometimes things have to go your way and you get lucky and things have to proceed ideally like lack of injuries, staying healthy. Those things can happen, but if all goes well I think we have a great shot at winning (the SEC).â€?

Men’s Soccer

For a program that has made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances it should come as no surprise that the expectations from South Carolina head coach Mark Berson for the 2014 season revolve around competing for a conference championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.   Last year the Gamecocks had their ups and downs with a very young team, but nevertheless were able to finish strong and put together a respectable 7-7-5 record. The Gamecocks were 4-2-3 in an incredibly tough Conference USA last year.  That the Gamecocks continue to be successful on the pitch is just part of the story though as South Carolina last year received the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Team Academic Award after posting a team

GPA of 3.54. The GPA was the tops in all of NCAA Division I men’s soccer, giving the Gamecocks the best GPA in Division I in two out of the last four seasons.  “The guys worked really hard in the offseason, so we have a young team that’s not that young anymore. We’ve brought in a very good recruiting class to kind of address the needs that we have in the attack and that was really the problem last year,� Berson said. “We think we have depth and we think we have experience. You never know what’s going to happen and that’s why it’s exciting every year, but we’re very cautiously optimistic. I think it’s going to be a really solid group.

Volleyball

South Carolina’s volleyball team took a young squad through the competitive SEC last season and this year the Gamecocks hope to reap the benefits in 2014.  The 2013 Gamecock roster had 10 freshmen and only two seniors, so the progression of the young squad could be a major benefit for the program. South Carolina head coach Scott Swanson was pleased with the young players’ work ethic this spring. “I think that the culture has changed. We have some juniors who want to win.

Actual view from Unit 403

They now know what it takes. It takes something different than what we were doing before,� Swanson explained. “It’s really about investing; that’s kind of our key word for our team and our program. Investing in the rewards that you want to reap, doing what’s best for the team on a regular basis and I think if we’re able to do that then we’re going to have some good success here in the future. We have some good players coming in to join the good ones that we have.�

Cross Country

The South Carolina cross country team finished last season improving upon the previous year’s finishes in the SEC Championships and the NCAA Southeast Regional and will look to continue that trend in 2014. Though some of the runners will be departing from last season’s team, the Gamecocks should be more experienced in the upcoming year. “We certainly want to improve on those rankings and finishes in the SEC and region,� South Carolina assistant track coach for distance and cross country Andrew Allden said. “We want to continue to improve based on our historical finishes. We’re excited to keep working and get back competing this fall.�

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ith the hype surrounding the South Carolina offensive line and having a Heisman-caliber running back, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was asked if he thought this could be the best offense he has had at SEC Media Days. “When the year is over, whatever our record is and that’s the only thing that counts obviously,” Spurrier answered dryly. “The last time we had a super offensive day I think against Arkansas, you guys wrote that it was the best offense that we’ve ever had and we stunk it up pretty good against Tennessee the next week, so don’t write that this is the best offense. Don’t write that. Don’t write it.” Against the Head Ball Coach’s wishes the talk is still circling with the possibility of a prolific Gamecock offense this season. Guard A.J. Cann and tackle Corey Robinson were both preseason All-SEC selections by the media at SEC Media Days building hype around the Gamecocks’ offensive line. Spurrier recognized that his offensive line should be an asset, saying “we’ve got

a chance to have a good team. The offensive line is about all back, Ronald Patrick is the only one we lost up front, so these guys could be really good … they’ve got a chance to be a real good one.” Gamecock running back Mike Davis also received All-SEC honors, while being named to the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award Watch List last week as well. “Mr. College Football” Tony Barnhart said that Davis is one of the best backs in the SEC, if not the nation at SEC Media Days. The SEC Network’s Greg McElroy said that Davis is a “dark-horse Heisman candidate.” Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson speaks highly of backfield mate Davis as well. “Mike is a great player. Fortunately for our team, we have a lot of guys that can get the jobs done. Mike is a great player and a great guy. It does take some pressure off of you as far as the running game, but I think that starts with our offensive line. We have a great line and Mike is going to have a great year,” Thompson said. At the quarterback position Spurrier said that Thompson is an unknown factor, but he should be ready to take over. “He’s prepared. He’s been there five

work hard to push for it. “Obviously we lost Connor Shaw, Bruce Ellington and Ronald Patrick as key guys on the offense last year, but I think that the guys that we have coming back have a lot of experience … I think as a group, as an offensive line we gelled during the spring and I think we’ll have a good year this year if we work hard and continue to compete and work to get better,” Cann said. Thompson addressed the talk of the best offense under Spurrier as well, but focused on putting in the work to make that happen. “Potentially I think yes we could, but you never know. I worry that the hype is sometimes scary sometimes if people just take it and run with it,” Thompson commented. “We’ll see. I think we have the talent to definitely make a run and put up some points on offense. “I think that you’ve got to just keep your eye on it and when Aug. 1 comes, we have to take those practices and be efficient with them, not waste the reps. I think we’re in a good spot now and we’ve just got to keep working,” Thompson continued.

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By Mike Kucharski mike@spursandfeathers.com

years. He’s a five-year guy that’s got one year to make his mark in college football,” Spurrier explained. “He’s got one year to do his thing so he is really fired up about it. He wants to take advantage. I’m going to try my best to give him every opportunity to lead our team and have as good a year as possible. “Dylan’s played three games and he’s 3-0 as a starter, came in last year against Central Florida and played practically the whole game after Connor got hurt. So we have excellent confidence that Dylan can play well and the whole team believes in him. He is truly a good leader,” Spurrier continued. As far as the best offense that he has coached at South Carolina, Spurrier said that he does not feel the Gamecock fans have seen it yet. “I still don’t think we’ve peaked. I still think that we can have one better as we go through. Dylan has a chance to do a lot of good things, but obviously the goal is to win the game and that’s what we’ll continue trying to do,” Spurrier said. Cann knows that there is a chance to be a great offense, but the players must

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By Brian Hand bhand@spursandfeathers.com

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hen I arrived at Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood, S.C. shortly after 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 24, 2014, I was in a great mood. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day once again in the greater Columbia area and the South Carolina media relations golf outing signaled that football was that much closer. I quickly learned upon arrival that I was going to be paired with ESPN anchor/reporter/play-by-play personality Cara Capuano and WYFF News 4 (Greenville, S.C.) Sports Director Brad Fralick by South Carolina Associate Director of Media Relations and golf outing organizer Emily Feeney. Those were the only two names I heard. Still giddy, I went to my golf cart to see who was the fourth member of our group. It was at this point that I became scared stiff as South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier himself was that fourth member. Before the event even began, I had sent Feeney this email when she asked if I was going to play golf: “I will be playing very, very, very bad golf. Please put me with a group that is not great if at all possible. I have fun, but play like three times all year, usually around media events.” That three times a year I mentioned was just once in the past year though as the last time I had picked up my clubs had been the 2013 South Carolina media relations golf outing. In 2013, I had been paired with South Carolina Associate AD/CMO Eric Nichols and South Carolina Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach Shawn Elliott. We had fun as a group, but needless to say they were vastly better golfers than I was and at that point before that particular event I had at least played a couple times prior. This year, I knew that I would struggle at the media outing, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be paired with Spurrier. I’m a former college athlete, but I have never been able to pick up the game of golf, which is why I was mortified at the thought of playing with Spurrier. Not because Spurrier is a bad guy. In fact, it is quite the opposite as he is great to be around. Rather it was because I am atrocious at golf and he was someone that was really good not only as a football coach, but also as a golfer. Right after figuring out Spurrier was that fourth member of our group, I went back to Feeney and jokingly asked, “really? You paired me with Spurrier’s group?” I then had to tell all those that knew how awful I was at the game of golf the funny news. It made for a fun few minutes before we hit the links. The night before on Twitter I already knew I was going to be so bad. I had even put on the social media avenue: “Dear Cobblestone Park Golf Club: As we have @GamecockFB Golf Outing Thursday, I am sorry in advance for how awful I am at golf.” Nevertheless, despite being probably a 30 (or more) handicap (personal best score is 92 at Cherokee Valley Golf Club in Travelers Rest, S.C.) in golf, I decided I would just have fun and do the best I could, particularly since it was “Captain’s Choice” scoring with all four of us in the group hitting and the best shot among the four being chosen each time. The HBC is very particular in how he likes to play his

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golf at this media outing as he wants to get done in less than three-and-a-half hours. This means not playing past par on each particular hole. Once we arrived on the course, Spurrier quickly realized it would be a long day with me when I topped my first drive on hole No. 1. He then asked me how often I played. “Just once a year, coach,” I said. Understanding golf was not my forte and ever the coach he took it upon himself to give me extremely useful pointers over the course of our time together on the two nine-hole courses (Garnet & Black) we were playing at Cobblestone Park Golf Club on the day. Part of the winning team in 2011 at the annual media golf outing along with legendary Gamecock football player and current football voice Todd Ellis and WOLO/ABC Columbia’s Tim Hill, Capuano and Spurrier knew that while they might not be fighting for the win in this year’s event they could enjoy the small victories. In fact, that was kind of the tone of the morning as anytime each of us would hit a good shot it was very much celebrated. Spurrier told me numerous times, “if you only play once a year, you can’t get mad.” Spurrier as everyone knows is a great golfer, but in addition he is also a fairly good explainer of the game. After a solid approach on hole No. 3, Spurrier when about to hit his next shot told me that the night before he was watching golfing legend Tom Watson break down his swing. “He said stick out your legs and kind of let your club kind of fall down,” Spurrier noted before promptly connecting on a brilliant shot that led to our first birdie of the day. Strangely enough, I made the first birdie. Spurrier’s shot made it a gimme putt, but Capuano said “Brian, you hit it. I want to get your confidence up.” That was the kind of group we had at the outing. I made the putt and it was one of three we made on the front nine. Once we made the turn, that brought about numerous cameras and others hoping to get

some shots of Spurrier in action. It took us some time to get going on the back nine and with two media members still following us it was Spurrier who made the biggest putt of the day for us when he knocked down a 35-foot putt. “You got your shot,” Spurrier joyfully said to the reporters after making the putt. It was at this point that we kind of got going a little bit as we closed out the back nine with four birdies. Probably the best played hole by the entire group came on one of the last two as Capuano and Spurrier both stuck their tee shots on the par-3 17th. I was then able to connect on the birdie attempt. At the end of the day our group finished with an impressive 7-under-par score. Ever the competitor it was after my birdie on 17 that Spurrier began to realize that if we could have used our golf handicaps our group more than likely would have been in position for the overall win at the annual event. Such was the not the case, but at the end of the day we all had smiles on our faces because we all knew our group had overachieved. And Spurrier, just like any other coach, knows that is the point in the end. It’s even how he opened his press conference after the golfing portion of the outing was over. “I always enjoy coming out to this event,” Spurrier said. “A lot of good things have happened in the last nine years and obviously we’re looking forward to another one. We started winning here because of players first. Not because of me. I coached my butt off my first five years as hard as I could, but seven wins was the best we could average. We did average seven, but we started getting our players, the facilities got a lot better. We got I think better coaches in and altogether we put it together pretty well,” Spurrier elaborated. Spurrier may not have had the players to win in the 2014 golf media outing, but he just may have the right set going into the 2014 Gamecock football season.


By Andy Demetra Contrbuting Writer

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teve Spurrier just completed another undefeated talking season. When it comes to filling notepads during the dull days of July, nobody has done it better for longer than the Head Ball Coach. He proved it again during a nine-day stretch that saw him speak at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.; ESPN’s “Car Wash” in Bristol, Conn.; and his annual media/athletics golf outing in Blythewood. Three consecutive 11-win seasons should have been proof enough. But Spurrier showed he hasn’t lost his touch on the microphone, either. He refers to this time of year as “talking season,” when coaches spill bland, inoffensive sound bites about their teams in the absence of any real news about them. They follow a sort of coachspeak Mad Libs: We’re so excited for the season… We’ve had the best summer in the weight room since I’ve been here… So-and-so has a chance to be something special. Their comments are boring by design, a flavorless paste of cliché and non-insights. They inspire hope without offering specifics. Talking season is full of sound (bites) and fury, signifying nothing. Unless you’re the HBC. Spurrier, who will be entering his 10th season at South Carolina, has never been afraid to keep talking season interesting. His appearance at SEC Media Days was anticipated by fans and media alike. He didn’t disappoint, joking that former quarterback Stephen Garcia looked like a cast member from the TV show “Duck Dynasty.” He praised Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin – “He’s a good coach. He’s a good negotiator, too. We know that. He’s got a good deal.” At his trip through ESPN headquarters, he gave an

astronomy lesson that would’ve made the folks at USC’s Melton Memorial Observatory proud. “All these others guys have an entourage. I’m an entourage of one,” Spurrier said of his lack of a media relations escort in Bristol. In one five-minute span at his post-golf press conference, he pivoted from Jay-Z (“he’s Beyonce’s husband”) to a history lesson on Davy Crockett to a detailed breakdown of Shon Carson’s 58-yard draw play against Florida. The man was in midseason offseason form. Even his straightforward comments get a chuckle. Spurrier is direct in a way that’s disarming. When he says, “Only time will tell if Vanderbilt can [win an SEC title]. I know Wake Forest won an ACC one year,” like he did at SEC Media Days, the ballroom in Hoover stifles its laughter. Put those words in the mouth of, say, Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, and it doesn’t have the same ring to it. Sure, Mark Richt gives the occasional one-liner. Les Miles has moments of poetry-slam weirdness. But when it comes to spicing up talking season, Steve Spur-

rier, 69 years old and beginning his 25th season as a college head coach, remains the master, still able to sling zingers with the best of them. In fact, with the rise of social media, you could argue that Spurrier’s popularity has never been greater. With every sound bite multiplying in real-time on Twitter, Spurrier’s wit travels farther than ever before. He has endeared himself to a whole generation of fans who never knew him for his national championship at Florida. The quotable HBC has found a second act on social media. Why is that? For one, Spurrier has been doing it the longest. Head coaches have always been a serious, squarejawed bunch; when money and media attention started pouring in to college football, they became even more vanilla. Their press conferences went from folksy and unfiltered to watered-down and wary. Spurrier, of course, has never operated that way. While other coaches went mayonnaise-on-white-bread boring, Spurrier kept on riffin’. Now, when coaches compete for RT-worthy

quotes at their Media Days, it feels like they’re doing a pale imitation of the HBC. Their one-liners feel less like a show of personality than a part of some carefully choreographed marketing plan, meant to score cool points with the tastemakers on Twitter. Spurrier, meanwhile, is the effortless original – and fans love that he can still bring it. He also reminds you not to take his comments too seriously. “Talking season, we sometimes all say a little bit - this, that, and the other,” Spurrier said last month. He makes it known the he’s only trying to give some lighthearted fodder for fans, and break up the monotony of the offseason. He almost treats it like his duty. College football fans - even those who don’t cheer for the Gamecocks – seem to appreciate that. And why wouldn’t Spurrier keep talking? His team has gone 33-6 over the last three seasons. He hasn’t tasted defeat to Clemson in five years. He’s checked off school records left and right, with previously unthinkable milestones (SEC Championship anyone?) within sight. He has a well-stocked team that was picked by the media to win the SEC East. “We’ve come a long way. Hopefully, we can keep going and do better things. Somehow, we’ve put together three straight 11-win seasons and finished fourth in the country. That made me a happy Gamecock and hopefully all of our fans, too,” Spurrier said. And when you’re happy and winning, you can riff about “Duck Dynasty” and Davy Crockett. You can have fun at the podium, and leave the tame, tedious sound bites to others. So for another offseason, Steve Spurrier charmed, disarmed, and had fans eating out of the palm of his hand. Talking season is over, though. From here on out, Steve Spurrier will let his team’s play do the talking.

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Spurs & Feathers August Magazine