I know a lot of people are still wondering just what the heck is going on with Steve Spurrier handing over a chunk of his beloved play calling duties to G.A. Mangus against Vanderbilt last week and, apparently for the foreseeable future. The timing and the reasoning seem bizarre to say the least.
Well, let’s take a closer look at the chain of events and information we have and see if we can make a bit more sense of it.
First, it is important to make note of just how emotionally difficult the Kentucky loss was on the team. A couple of sources told me there was a lot of finger pointing and bickering in the locker room after the game. Spurrier in particular was taking some heat for the loss and he didn’t much care for it. One colleague told me about a “temper tantrum” Spurrier threw in the Monday coaches meeting when some of the second half play calling at Kentucky was questioned.
Spurrier’s response to the criticism? Apparently the HBC decided to take a “Fine, if you don’t like the way I call plays, someone else can call them” attitude. According to one source, Spurrier removed himself from a lot of the offensive preparation during practice last week. Spurrier said Tuesday that he spent a chunk of time last week working with the defensive backs. The same source told me Gamecock assistant coach Ellis Johnson wasn’t real fond of Spurrier’s decision to start meddling with his defense.
No one really got wind of much of this until sometime during the first quarter of the Vanderbilt game. I was sitting in the press box in Nashville when I started getting text messages and seeing scuttlebutt on Twitter about Spurrier looking uninterested on the sidelines. The word was he wasn’t calling the plays.
Honestly, I didn’t see it. At that point the entire team looked disinterested. I didn’t think much of it. As far as Spurrier goes, he seemed more chipper than normal in his postgame press conference.
It wasn’t until I returned to Columbia that I was informed of the information I outlined above. I also learned that Spurrier ended up taking a more active role in the play calling late in the first half, just before the Gamecocks first touchdown drive.
Spurrier confirmed Tuesday that he had changed the play calling into more of a community deal, with Mangus, Spurrier Jr., and Shawn Elliott also on the headset.
It seems this current system is going to remain in place this week against Tennessee. Instead of working with the defensive backs this week Spurrier said he will help with the punt return team. As Kornblut told me yesterday, “That means USC has the highest paid punt return coach in the country.”
So, how big of an issue is this? The Gamecocks did roll up close to 500 yards of offense against Vandy Saturday night. And we all know this isn’t the first time Spurrier has stated he’s delegating the play calling to someone else.
Steve Spurrier is the king of knee jerk decisions and reactions. This trait has made him one of the most entertaining and successful coaches in the history of college football. He’s not going to change. This latest saga will be nothing but entertaining fodder as long as the HBC wins.
However, should USC lose, especially if they lose because of an offensive breakdown, this could get ugly. Some fans have already grown tired of some of Spurrier’s antics.
This is part of one of the emails we received yesterday from a Gamecock fan:
I’ve never been a fan of his (Spurrier), and I think we made a mistake when he was hired. Sure he gave us immediate recognition, but other than that, he really hasn’t done more than Lou did in his tenure at Carolina. What did that get us in the long run? The only reason he’s still here is because of name.
Spurrier’s call to bench Stephen Garcia at Auburn and the second half debacle and final play at Kentucky have tested Carolina fans patience. If the HBC’s plan to step away from the play calling cost USC a game or a chance at the SEC East this season, things could get downright nasty.