Today was South Carolina's slot at SEC Media Days. Steve Spurrier, Connor Shaw, Ace Sanders, and D.J. Swearinger were on hand to represent the Gamecocks. Nothing particularly mind-bending came up (although Spurrier and Swearinger drew some attention for their fashion sense), but I'll share a few things I observed while watching the videos of each interview.
--Shaw was fairly taciturn at the podium and didn't seem completely comfortable to me. There were a few interesting questions / answers, though. One reporter asked him something to the effect of whether he felt more comfortable this year knowing that he would be the full-time starter. Although he didn't go into any depth about his mindset during last year's QB controversy, Shaw's answer was an emphatic "yes," and you could tell, both at this point and when he answered another question about his role in the locker room, that he likes being "the guy" in the leadership role. I felt that you could increasingly see this on the field at the end of last season--his body language and his demeanor towards his teammates changed. The change corresponded with better, more confident play, so I like to hear him continue to say that he's feeling good about himself right now. The other interesting question, I thought, was about how he would do without Alshon Jeffery. WR is, indeed, a question mark this year. Shaw didn't have a lot to say other than what you'd expect, that Jeffery was a great receiver but that there were still guys who could play. He specifically mentioned Sanders, Damiere Byrd, D.L. Moore, and Bruce Ellington. Nothing surprising there, but I thought this was a good question because this is definitely one of the things to keep our eyes on. Whether those guys can collectively elevate this passing game remains to be seen.
--Sanders, like Shaw, seemed to feel that the passing game would be more effective this year without the QB controversy. He said that it was difficult to get into a rhythm early last year due to the back-and-forth between Shaw and Stephen Garcia. One other thing to note was that Sanders, like Spurrier, expressed a lot of confidence in Lattimore being 100% and ready to go this fall.
--Swearinger's session was fun and upbeat. Another thing I noted is that he mentioned getting the young guys ready a few times, which seemed to be in reference to the youth we'll have on the depth chart in the secondary. Swearinger seemed confident in these guys being ready, reiterating in a couple of different contexts that he thought the defense could in fact be better this year than it was a year ago, but it's worth noting his acknowledgment of the concern nonetheless. The other interesting thing that came up in his session was when a reporter brought up his tete-a-tetes with Sammy Watkins over Twitter. Swearinger said it was all in good fun and that he respects Watkins, but that he likes to talk trash to get in opponents' heads. Interesting look into what the guys are thinking when they do this stuff.
--Spurrier is always one of the main attractions at this event, with reporters hoping he'll have a zinger for Georgia, or perhaps a zany new idea about paying players. Although he did get in a few quips for Georgia and Nick Saban, today didn't really live up to some of his performances of old in the entertainment department. Nonetheless, it was interesting at points. The main thing to note was Spurrier's confidence. It's one thing when players express confidence at Media Days. They're supposed to do that. It's another thing when Spurrier, a coach notorious for telling it like it is, does it. Spurrier mentioned that Carolina still has some ground to make up with Alabama and LSU, but he also said that he believes this might be his best USC team yet. Coming off an 11-2 season, that has to make you feel good.