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South Carolina Football: A Little Perspective

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I've noticed that there's been a striking amount of negativity surrounding USC's program over the past few weeks. Most of the negativity has been directed towards Steve Spurrier and his management of the offense this season. Some are even stating that we should be considering looking elsewhere for a head coach. I realize this is a minority position I'm addressing, but I feel that it should be addressed here.

First of all, it's obviously true that there's something wrong with the offense, and Spurrier deserves some criticism, as I'm sure he'd be the  first to admit. I don't know what's wrong with the offense. It seems like something different each week: early in the season, it was not running the ball enough. Then, it was Stephen Garcia struggling to throw the ball. Then, the offensive line began to collapse. Some weeks the line can't pass block, some weeks it can't run block. There are also continued headscratchers from a playcalling standpoint. Whatever the case may be, it's clear that our offense is dysfunctional right now, and Spurrier deserves some of the blame. He's the de facto offensive coordinator, so it's his responsibility for the team to field a good offense.

That said, there's no need to call for Spurrier's head. While Spurrier is responsible for the offense, he's more so, as the head coach, responsible for the team as a whole, and right now, Spurrier has us winning football games. Yes, we're winning with Ellis Johnson's defense rather than Spurrier's offense. So what? I've heard a few people suggest that Spurrier doesn't deserve credit for Johnson's defense. I disagree. Who hired Johnson? Who hired Lorenzo Ward and Brad Lawing, whose defensive backs and defensive linemen, respectively, are having standout years? Spurrier did, of course; he made good choices, and the coaches were more likely to come here and want to stay for the chance to coach with a legend. Spurrier is also responsible for taking the recruiting culture at South Carolina to the next level. No, he's not always the guy closing on the recruits, but he is the guy who hired our all-star recruiters, and he's an attraction to top recruits. The results speak for themselves.

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We may not be winning pretty, but we're winning. At 7-1 with a game against The Citadel slated after Florida, we're certain to win at least eight games. Based on a historical bar that we've yet to prove that we can maintain with any level of consistency, that's success. Moreover, I would say that it's highly likely that we're going to win at least nine, perhaps ten games. We'll be favored against Florida, and the Clemson game will likely be a push. Arkansas will be tough, but it's certainly a winnable game if we play our best. How often have we been in a position at this point in the season to win 11 regular-season games? Does a program that's in the position to achieve that kind of historical success deserve to be dismissed as a failure? The idea seems ridiculous to me. And this is to say nothing of the numerous firsts Spurrier has accomplished here: he won our first SEC East title, he turned the tide in several rivalry series, etc. Lately, he broke our record for consecutive road wins. The list could go on.

This is just speculation, of course, but I think there are two things that have happened this year that have made some portions of the fanbase unnecessarily critical of Spurrier. The first is the Garcia situation. Unfortunately, there are some USC fans who want to blame everyone but Garcia for consequences Garcia brought upon himself. Spurrier is a particular object of their ire. All I can say directly to that is that it doesn't make any sense. Moreover, some of the offense's problems (although perhaps not as much as we originally thought) are definitely attributable to Garcia's regression, and I'm willing to wager that Spurrier couldn't have done anything to have prevented whatever was ailing Garcia. This is one offensive problem that I don't think should be blamed on Spurrier, and it's one that I think he deserves a bit of a pass on.

The second thing that I think is driving fan unrest is the success the Tigers are experiencing in the Upstate. I've heard a number of people say things to the effect of, "If Clemson can have a high-profile offense with their talent, why can't we with preseason All-SEC selections like Garcia, Marcus Lattimore, and Alshon Jeffery?" What I would say here is that we should worry about our own business before worrying about Clemson's. We can't control Clemson, and neither can Spurrier; in fact, in the one way Spurrier can control Clemson, in-state recruiting, Spurrier has had mountains of success. And anyways, the Tigers will be our business soon enough, and if we can beat a good Clemson, the victory will be that much sweeter. I'd also say that while Clemson's offense has made it a media darling this season, I think it's numbers have been inflated by the atrocious state of ACC defense and that we're going to be able to slow the Tigers down. Let this situation play out before you freak out over Clemson.

At the end of the day, though, I think we all need a bit of historical perspective. We're in a veritable golden age of USC football, and Steve Spurrier has been a large part of what brought us here. He doesn't deserve to be fired; he deserves to be thanked for being the most successful head coach who has ever coached here.