I wanted to do an edition of 5 POINTS after the Iowa game. I really did. But every time I would try to map in my mind what to say, it all came out like a litany of the problems South Carolina had every time it lost in 2008.
Eventually, I scrapped the idea of doing a post just on the game. Instead, after spending some time thinking about the future of the program, that's what I'll focus on here.
1. Give Spurrier one more year. No, this isn't going as fast as anyone wanted it to. My guess would be that you can include Spurrier in the list of people that are frustrated. But this was always going to be a difficult task, even for a coach with the resume of OBC. So let's give him one more year. The fifth year is usually seen as the year by which you've done all you're going to do. Barring a sixth year of eligibility for someone, there are no holdovers from the previous regime's recruits; even the redshirt seniors are your guys. Your first full recruiting class is entering its fourth year. This is the time for Spurrier to show what he can do. If he can win nine or ten games, keep South Carolina in contention for the SEC East title late into the year and win against Clemson and/or in the bowl, it's a good sign that Spurrier's got a chance to reach his goals here. If not, it might be time to look elsewhere. Let's not be ridiculous -- Spurrier's still had an almost-unprecedented run of what passes for success at South Carolina, and he shouldn't be fired. But if year five isn't a good one, it's time to realize that he's probably not the coach to get it done. A retirement wouldn't bother me; nor would his staying on. The goals, though, would be reduced.
2. Stephen Garcia, if sober, should start. Those who've been reading have seen my evolution from the guy who used to jokingly call Garcia THE SAVIOR OF THE PROGRAM to the guy who most consistently calls for him to start. If he manages to stay on track, he'll have his first full offseason of practice and a new quarterbacks coach. He should have a better grasp of the offense. And there's no real competition with Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher gone. We have to hope, of course, that Garcia can keep it together. I think the odds are pretty good that he's finally learned from his mistakes and is ready to put together a good offseason and, just maybe, a good season. If so, it will help with one of South Carolina's main problem spots on the offense. That said, the offensive line has got to got to got to do a better job. I weep no tears for John Hunt, and no one who's watched this program should.
3. The early exits and seniors. Listen, we all would like to have Jared Cook around for another year, but if he wants to go to the NFL, I can't blame him. He probably won't be a first-rounder -- though he might -- but there aren't a lot of TEs that go in the first round in a given year anyway. Unless you're the No. 1 at that position, you might as well go when you can get into the second round or so. I don't understand Emanuel Cook or Captain Munnerlyn leaving. But in Munnerlyn's case, at least, I'm not as worried as I might have been just a year ago. Yes, he's done some good things at Carolina. He's also shown an uncanny ability to get flagged for 15-yard penalties, often at the worst possible time. (Not that there's a good time for 15-yard penalties, but I digress.) We lose a lot of seniors this year: Kenny McKinley, Jasper Brinkley, Ryan Succop and the list goes on. Last year, South Carolina was a young team. This year, not so much. That said, losing seniors from a 7-6 team isn't always a bad thing. We all like some of these players, but the bottom line is they didn't get South Carolina to an SEC title, a 10-win season, a Top 25 ranking or any of the marks that your team is headed in the right direction. That might sound harsh, but it's not meant to diminish what any of them did -- McKinley, in particular, will be missed and deserved a chance to play in more big games than he did. It's just an unfortunate statement of fact.
4. The new recruiting class. I'm not a recruitnik, mostly because it seems like a lot of names and star ratings and other things that you keep up with for months until it comes down to February and you have whom you have. But everything I hear tells me that the Gamecocks have a chance at a highly-rated recruiting class. In the past, through good times and bad, I've said that recruiting doesn't matter all that much, at least not when you're talking about the number of four- and five-star players. I've finally been convinced, both through the work of Dr. Saturday/SMQ and through what I've seen the last few years, that I was wrong. So I'm glad to hear that South Carolina's class is on the right track, and I fervently hope that the coaches close strong. The importance of this recruiting class cannot be overstated; after two disappointing seasons, it's time to get some highly-rated athletes into Columbia. Otherwise, the program will get stuck in a downward spiral of poor recruiting classes, disappointing seasons, poor recruiting classes, and so on.
5. Optimistic? Not really. Pessimistic? No. For the first time in a long time, I don't have a real read on the direction of the program. I'd like to be optimistic, or at least guardedly so. But 6-6 followed by 7-6 don't give you much reason for optimism. On the other hand, I can't really be pessimistic; it's not in my nature. As someone who roots for the Gamecocks and the Cubs, I have to be able to fuel my fandom with hope or I've really got nothing. Let's see where we are on Signing Day, the next milestone for the program. The future begins then, and (at risk of sounding like Yogi Berra) the future is all we've got left.