College Sports

Spurrier not concerned with lineup shake-ups

A flagrant facemask on Chris Smelley had USC coach Steve Spurrier seeing red this week.
A flagrant facemask on Chris Smelley had USC coach Steve Spurrier seeing red this week.

COLUMBIA -- As the latest round of player re-shuffling got underway at South Carolina this week, the question arose if coach Steve Spurrier was concerned about undermining his players' confidence.


"That doesn't concern me a bit," Spurrier said. "I guess sometimes y'all ask questions like you're not supposed to substitute or change or try new people. To me that's not bad.

"That's just giving everyone an opportunity to play."

Some of the changes are necessary -- Marvin Sapp has to take over at linebacker because Jasper Brinkley is hurt. And some of the others are cases of the coaches figuring the substitute can't play much worse than the other guy, such as the ever-changing offensive line.

The question seemed to center on the Gamecocks' quarterback situation -- starting Chris Smelley over Blake Mitchell this week. But Spurrier pointed out neither quarterback has played particularly brilliantly, although each has had good moments.

Some of that's the line's protection but some of it's the quarterback's decisions. Smelley will start to see if he can put a complete game together, like Mitchell did against Georgia.

"Whether or not he can audible or pick out guys, I don't know," Spurrier said. "Haven't seen him do it yet. So we'll find out if he can do it in a game."

• ADVANTAGE?: Any supposed edge the Gamecocks were counting on by starting the little-used Smelley over Mitchell was negated by Mississippi State defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Johnson pointed out earlier this week that Smelley played a few series in the Gamecocks' season-opening win at MSU last year, and there's plenty of game film from Smelley's play this year against Louisiana-Lafayette and LSU.

Plus, Johnson recruited Smelley out of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"We saw him last year when Blake hurt his leg temporarily," Johnson said. "Recruited the kid out of high school and know a lot about him personally. Very good player."

• DIRTY TIGERS: Spurrier was also asked about some perceived dirty play from LSU, especially one punt return where several helmet-to-helmet hits were spotted and a sack on Smelley from Marlon Favorite. Favorite flagrantly yanked Smelley's facemask and was ejected for it, but only one penalty was called on the punt return.

"They knew that one flag was already thrown there, so one guy caught Ryan (Succop) in the back of the helmet and then he gave his NFL thing on the flag," Spurrier said, holding up his arms in an 'X' to mimic the LSU celebration. "They did a little bit on that play."

Spurrier also said those were the only two that he thought were really dirty, and the Smelley sack was dealt with anyway.

"No, LSU, I thought played fair," he said. "Hopefully, coaches don't tell their players to do that. And they don't. Most coaches are all pretty clean."

• NO OPINION: As most coaches were this week, Spurrier was asked if he'd seen the infamous Mike Gundy rant. Oklahoma State's coach blistered columnist Jenni Carlson for a piece she wrote, which Gundy called "fiction."

Spurrier said he hadn't watched it but had heard about it, and said he was fine with people's opinions on him as long as the facts were straight.

"If their opinion is, 'He's a lousy coach,' 'He should never go for it on fourth down,' whatever ... that's your opinion," he said, drawing chuckles from the room. "But just don't write things that aren't true."

• MILESTONE: Spurrier will coach his 300th game Saturday, a stat Spurrier said he wasn't aware of. He is also going for his 100th win against an SEC opponent.

• ON THE MEND: Linebacker Dustin Lindsey is questionable for this week, still recovering from a sprained knee. Offensive linemen Kevin Young and Gurminder Thind are probably out.

Defensive backs Brandon Isaac and Darian Stewart are banged-up but could play. Stewart will probably start but Isaac is a wait-and-see.

Linebacker Cliff Matthews is slated to start although he will still have a cast on his right hand.