After the first week of preseason drills, Steve Spurrier is sure of one thing.
"Everybody's on time now," the South Carolina coach said Sunday at the Gamecocks' media day.
Spurrier said freshman defensive back Victor Hampton is the only player who showed up late -- and that was for a meeting that had been held a half-hour later the previous few days.
Promptness and regular attendance have not always been strong suits for USC under Spurrier, who said "in the old days" as many as five players would miss mandatory breakfast. Former strength coach Mark Smith would punish players with a Stairmaster workout, but there were more offenders than there were machines.
"We just had a heck of a mess," Spurrier said.
But as he enters his sixth year, Spurrier believes he has most of it cleaned up. He said he has better recruiters who are bringing in players who are both more talented and of higher character than those from previous recruiting classes.
Will it make a difference in the win column? Spurrier is eager to find out.
"We've all got to be accountable to each other -- coaches, players, trainers, equipment guys, everybody. And they seem to have accepted some accountability and responsibility a lot better maybe than years past," Spurrier said. "But whether or not that will help us win, we've got to find out."
The Gamecocks have 16 seniors on this year's roster, twice as many as last season.
Within that group, Spurrier pointed to three proven leaders on each side of the ball -- defensive linemen Cliff Matthews, Ladi Ajiboye and Travian Robertson, tight end/fullback Patrick DiMarco, tailback Brian Maddox and offensive guard Terrence Campbell.
Matthews, who, with DiMarco, is one of two returning captains, said veterans would police younger players to make sure nobody was dogging it during summer conditioning workouts.
"If somebody came up short of the line, we'd jump on them. Not just one person, but everybody. 'Start over, do the drill over. Finish,'" Matthews said. "That's one thing coach Spurrier tries to preach to us is finishing. If you can't quite do something, at least just try to do it."
And while a couple of SEC East rivals have had to deal with off-the-field issues, USC players have kept their names out of the police blotter.
"They're really just acting like they should," Spurrier said. "I don't really think you should praise the guys for not getting arrested."
Spurrier is always mindful of heaping too much praise on his players. He wondered whether some players might have gotten too full of themselves and signed too many autographs last year after the Clemson win, contributing to the Gamecocks' lackluster showing in a 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
But Spurrier has no such concerns with freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore, a Parade All-American who was rated the nation's top running back prospect by Rivals.com.
"He's the kind of guy like (cornerback) Stephon (Gilmore). I can sit here and talk about how great he's going to be (and) it wouldn't bother him at all," Spurrier said. "Because he doesn't care what people say about him."
Spurrier again cited USC's improved facilities as a boost to recruiting. And while rival schools no longer can bash the Gamecocks' facilities on the recruiting trail, Spurrier said USC has provided them fodder with their inability to get over the 7-win hump.
"We're in position. We just need to win a whole bunch of games -- and win big -- and try to really get it going from there," Spurrier said. "The other schools, the only thing bad they can say about South Carolina is, 'Those guys got no reputation and no tradition. They always win about six or seven. Is that what you want to do?'
"They can say it truthfully because that's what we've done. That's our history. So we've got to do some things different around here to win nine, 10, 11 or whatever."
And while the Gamecocks have become a trendy pick to contend with Florida in the East this year, Spurrier has made no such pronouncement. Quarterback Stephen Garcia understands why, but is optimistic USC eventually will be in the conversation.
"Judging by our last game, it's hard to say any kind of (big) predictions. But I think we work hard enough to try to contend," Garcia said. "It's going to come down to having fun and executing the plays that coach brings in. Then we'll figure out all the predictions and all that later."