COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Steve Spurrier's done with "talking season" and is ready to see No. 9 South Carolina live up to the high expectations it has dealt with since finishing a third straight year with 11 wins.
The Gamecocks and Spurrier open things Thursday night against Texas A&M, the eighth time in the coach's 10 years at South Carolina he's gotten an early start to the regular season.
And Spurrier is confident with "talking season" over, his players have prepared to take that next step forward. The Gamecocks were picked this summer as preseason favorites to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division. As Spurrier has continually said, if you do that, you have a chance to win the league title - a goal he's coveted since taking over the program.
Steve Spurrier Quotes from Weekly Press Conference
The SEC Network is here today, we're glad to have our new network with us and we're looking forward to them televising the game on Thursday night. Should be a heck of a game. Texas A&M is a really good team, I've just been reading about some of their incoming freshman players. They have a defensive end, Myles Garrett that people are comparing to Jadaveon Clowney and obviously a fast wide receiver named Speedy Noil. They're recruited very well, they're going to play a lot of young guys it appears but they have a lot of experience with guys coming back. Obviously they lost their quarterback and a wide receiver and an offensive lineman, but they're probably like us in that they haven't had many superstars to talk about all preseason. Their players are anxious to earn their way just like our team. Our guys are anxious to show the country that we can play ball and that we have a lot of good players. We're certainly glad the game is at our place, here at Williams-Brice. We've had a good run the last two and a half years and hopefully we can continue. I know our fans will be fired up and do their part and we certainly encourage them. We're going to need them to do their part if we're going to beat Texas A&M. (Coach Sumlin) has won more games there in the first two years than any other coach at that school, they have a lot of momentum going and they have a lot of good players. We're looking forward to seeing how we do. An interesting note, Gerald Dixon and his brother [Gerald Dixon Jr.] are going to be starting in the defensive line. I don't know if that's ever happened here before. I don't think I've ever had two brothers starting the defensive line or even two offensive linemen. They're both good players and have both earned their way to be starters. We do have a lot of new players on defense and a couple of new players on offense, especially the quarterback. Connor Shaw, I think we all agree was the best in school history, but Dylan [Thompson] has the opportunity to really play well this year. He's prepared as well as he can possibly do it and the players have confidence that he can take us a long way. We'll see as we go through the season. A big game for us and it could be one of the biggest of the year. We have to be ready to play our best. Practices have gone pretty well, about the way we expect. We have a couple of injuries, Jamari Smith and Mike Matulis. Matulis was a starter and Jamari was a backup player that was going to play a lot of special teams. We'll miss those players and hopefully we have some guys to replace them. Hopefully Mike Matulis could be back with us this season and Jamari can use this as a redshirt season and be back next year. We'll be practicing again this afternoon and we'll really try to hone in on our game plan.
On scheduling challenging first game opponents
The schedule has never made a huge difference with me or our teams. You have to play them sometime, so you might as well play in the first few games. The opportunity to open college football really gets our players a little juiced up through the preseason practices. They know that it's going to be a nationally televised game so they want to play well. It's a good opportunity for us.
On being predicted to win the SEC East
I don't think it makes a huge difference to tell you the truth. It's just talking season and its almost over now. We're preparing the best we can, one game at a time and I'm sure that's what Texas A&M is doing also. They're trying to get ready to beat us and then beat the next team they play and that's what we're trying to do as well. I think it's nice to be picked a little bit, maybe that tells our players we have a chance to be pretty good. But, we also know that we can get beat just like almost anybody can beat. We have to coach and play well if we're going to give ourselves a good chance.
On the running backs
We have several good running backs. Obviously Mike had over 1,000 yards last year and he's a very good runner. [We also have] Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams, David was held out last year, so we have good running backs. Hopefully Mike will be full speed and 100 percent by Thursday, we think he will be. Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson both had really good preseason practices.
On stadium improvements
We're trying to get our place amongst the best in the country, trying to beautify it and so forth. There is a lot more color to our stadium then when I got here in 2005. We had to put the school record holders up, to get some names up there, we don't have many championships to brag about, but we have a lot of super individual players and their records are up on the walls. Outside we're trying to make it a little more attractive also. The big thing is how we play inside the ballpark, that's what is most important. The coaches and players, we can't worry too much about what happens outside, we have to worry about what happens on the field.
On Texas A&M's success in the SEC
They're 10-6 in SEC play their first two years and that's very good. What I'm more impressed with is their record on the road, they're 10-2 on the road in the last two years. That big win over Alabama was in Tuscaloosa so they are a good road team. They're not afraid of going to the other team's ballpark. They've done well and they have good players there.