gamecocks 2008: Changing of the Guard

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Here's an experiment for you. Go to Google and do a search for "spurrier jr play calling." See how many articles you can pull up on the subject.

In the annual ritual that has become the preseason Steve Spurrier story, the purported relinquishing of the play-calling duties to Steve Spurrier Jr. has been the favored meme. Even C&F has written about it.

Some saw it as a sign of the times.

Other coaches have given up play-calling in recent years and have had success. Even Charlie Weis has decided to give it up at Notre Dame.

In that sense, Spurrier is like everyone else. Just another ball coach.

EDSBS went as far as to say it made Spurrier, essentially, Bobby Bowden. With less senility.

But now, in 2008, Steve Spurrier is giving his son a plum play-calling gig a la Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. We’d critique this as further evidence of the scourge of nepotism rearing its head again in coaching…and we do. There’s no avoiding it, even if the words SYSTEM FAIL pop up in our head when we try to critique the beloved OB.

Hold on just a minute.

Yes, Spurrier is giving up some of the play-calling to Spurrier Jr. But anyone who thinks that HBC is just going to throw his son the keys to the car and ride along either doesn't know Spurrier very well or hasn't been paying attention.

Reports that South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier has handed play-calling over to his son, Steve Jr., are greatly exaggerated.

"I haven't given them up completely," said Spurrier, who loves calling his "ballplays" more than most coaches in college football history. "I'm going to try to create more time to help the entire team, but that's not to say I'm not going to have a strong influence in the play-calling."

In fact, Spurrier isn't even giving up the title.

"I'm still going to be the offensive coordinator and I'm still going to have my input into the play calling," said Spurrier, 63, adding that his son, receivers coach Steve Jr., will take over that role. "I haven't given it up completely, let's put it that way."

And HBC is as involved as ever in practices. 

Right in the middle of it all was the Gamecocks head football coach, Steve Spurrier. While most head coaches make quick cameos before and/or after the mini-camps, especially the big name coaches, the Head Ball Coach had been there every minute of each camp.

What’s more, he isn’t up in some tower, overlooking the entire process. SOS was right there in the mix of the drills, showing by example and teaching the young prospects exactly how they should do it.

So what's going on?

Two things. First, it's undeniable that Spurrier wants to look at the Gamecocks' offense through a wider lens. This might stem in part from a frustration at the general lack of offensive punch since Spurrier came to the Gamecocks; he might just be trying to figure out what's gone wrong.

Instead of working mostly with the quarterbacks and writing out their wristbands for each game -- yes, he did that -- Spurrier is going to work with the whole offense and try to fix things.

Spurrier
Gotta coach 'em up. All of 'em.

Secondly, though, is a more subtle factor that does have a whiff of nepotism.

If he was ever being considered for it, Spurrier Jr. was quickly out of the running last year when Duke went looking for a head coach. There were even rumors that Spurrier Sr. went to Duke to lobby to have Jr. named offensive coordinator. If he did, it was (obviously) unsuccessful.

If true, that must have been a blow to Spurrier's pride. He was one of the most successful Duke coaches since decades before he took over the Blue Devils, and no one has come close to HBC's level of success since.

But it's hard for a WR coach to make a credible head coaching candidate. And his bona fides could be questionable even for an offensive coordinator post when his father won't even trust him to take the reins. So it's time for a change.

Both Spurriers realize, too, that it's good experience if Spurrier Jr. is to one day be a head coach. He said again Friday that he wants to in the future.

"I'll take as much responsibility as I can get," Spurrier Jr. said.

Sure, there will still be those who think Spurrier Jr. is just an apprentice play-caller, and they might be right. But even if he's just getting a little bit more leeway, being allowed to call a few downs here and there, he's getting more extensive training from one of the best in the business. And some experience at calling meaningful plays is better than none at all. That has to be a boost for his prospects.

Maybe, after being an apprentice to one of the most accomplished offensive coordinators in college football history, Spurrier Jr. can become a full-time play-caller.

All on his own.

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