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Gamecocks to have new practice regimen

Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott didn’t know he had a pair of potential new recruits on campus but given the size of the Chick-fil-A cows, he may have wanted to sign them up. Representatives from the bowl game traveled to South Carolina on Friday to present head coach Steve Spurrier an official invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier makes a new friend at the Chick-fil-A Bowl press conference. He has never coached in the Atlanta-based bowl.

The Gamecocks (9-4) were the second stop on the two-day trip for the bowl representatives. The Chick-fil-A Bowl, one of three non-BCS games that pits top 25 teams, is being viewed as one of the top games of the holiday season.

“We really couldn’t be more excited to be playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” athletics director Eric Hyman said. “I’ve had our fans from Gamecock Nation express a high level of interest of playing in our bowl game. We want to make these opportunities a lot closer together than we have in the past.”

The Gamecocks haven’t taken advantage of their bowl appearance in any shape or form the last two seasons. Drubbings at the hands of Iowa and Connecticut have left much to be desired on the performance end. The buildup to the bowl game will be a little different this time around.

After laying an egg in each of the previous two bowl games, Spurrier admitted that there have to be some changes. Whether he knows exactly what to do right now is unclear but it won’t be the same.

“We’ll practice for two weeks on and off with a breather there at Christmas and do it a little like I’ve done it in the past although we’re going to do some things different this trip as far as bowl preparation, Spurrier said. “I don’t want to get into all the details but we’ll do things a little different than what we’ve done in the past around here because obviously whatever the heck we’ve done hasn’t worked well the last two years. I don’t know why but we’ll do some things different. “

As deep as Spurrier would elaborate was by saying his team would do “different stuff,” which could range anywhere from different practice times to regimen, to, well, anything. The Head Ball Coach said repeatedly following the Bowl that he prepared his team as best as he could and he didn’t see anything wrong with the practices.

The performance on the field, on the other hand, was ugly. Spurrier stated last week that he would prepare about the same for this bowl as he has for every other bowl during his head coaching tenure, which spans three different schools. But facing a crowd of around 50 members of the media on the second floor of the Crews Building at Williams-Brice Stadium, that tune changed a bit.

A win this year would give the Gamecocks their second 10-win season in school history with the first coming in 1984. While it’s important for him to send the team out into the offseason a winner, he’s not going to change his message too much.

“It was important last year. Some of you guys don’t think I think it’s important,” Spurrier said. “You say, ‘Why didn’t you get the guys to play?’ Why didn’t I get them to play against Auburn? We had the SEC Championship on the line. We just got clobbered. I don’t have the answer. Why didn’t we play well against Arkansas? I don’t always have the answers. I coach them all the same. Sometimes we have good games, sometimes we don’t. We’ll try to do some things different to try to get the attention of our guys a little bit better.”

Bowl practices

Exams do not finish up for the players until next Monday and Spurrier said he expects to begin practice on Thursday, December 16. The players will reconvene in Columbia after a couple days of downtime on Wednesday evening before buckling their chinstraps again.

The Gamecocks will depart for Atlanta on December 26 and they have four practice time slots available to them. USC can practice at Georgia State on the 26th from 2:30-5 p.m. but a member of sports information said that date may not be used. Practice is also scheduled from 1:30-4 p.m. on the 27th at Georgia State. The two practices at the Georgia Dome will be held on the 28th from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and the 29th from 1:45-3:45 p.m.

Florida State will practice at Georgia Tech their first two days. The Seminoles will practice immediate following South Carolina on the 28th and just before the Gamecocks on the 29th. Media access to practice is at the discretion of the team.

Tickets eaten up like nuggets

President and CEO Gary Stoken said that the Chick-fil-A Bowl has around 50 tickets left to sell through its ticket office and would likely be out by the end of the day. Athletics Director Eric Hyman stated that USC has less than 1,500 tickets of its 16,000 allotment remaining.

“The response we’ve got, we have less than 1,500 tickets left. We’ve been selling 400-500 per day,” Hyman said. “We’re excited to be able to participate and our fans have really embraced the tickets. We will have Gamecock Nation down there. We will paint the town garnet.”

Gamecocks earning honors

It’s been a whirlwind of a week for several South Carolina players, who are watching as their trophy case grows by the minute. The two most decorated players so far are running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Lattimore has already racked up two national freshman of the year awards and also multiple SEC awards. Jeffery has all-American and all-SEC honors and traveled back from Orlando today after being one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s best receiver.

“We’re proud of (Lattimore). And we’re proud Alshon was up for the Biletnikoff,” Spurrier said. “Certainly Marcus is well-deserving. He’ll put (the awards) aside and try to get ready to win a bowl game. I’m sure that’s what’s on his mind right now.”

On Thursday, offensive lineman Garrett Chisolm was announced as South Carolina’s representative on the SEC Community Service Team.

Quick hitters

- Spurrier confirmed that wide receiver Tori Gurley and offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins have put in paperwork to the NFL draft advisory committee. “We’ve had a couple to send in their papers,” Spurrier said. “Tori Gurley and Rokevious (Watkins), I think, are the only two. I’m not sure who else. They still have time if they want to, I think.”

- Spurrier also noted that as of right now, most of the players look fine academically. Final exams finish up next Monday. “We think so,” Spurrier said. “One or two have to pass something, we think. But we should be OK.”

- One of the events scheduled for bowl week is the FCA Breakfast on December 27. The special guest speaker, which was booked long before Florida State was ever invited, is former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden.

- Spurrier said that he, nor anyone else on the coaching staff, has gone too in-depth with Florida State preparation. The coaches have been out on the recruiting trail this week visiting players.


Photos by Juan Blas

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