NCAA Football

Is Steve Spurrier Right to Publicly Criticize His South Carolina Team?

No one is unhappier about South Carolina's 3-3 record than head coach Steve Spurrier—and he isn't afraid to say so.

The Head Ball Coach is, understandably, still steamed over a 45-38 loss to Kentucky in Week 6. It was a game that, with all due respect to the Wildcats' efforts, was given away.

It's been a tumultuous season already for the Gamecocks, who have an impressive win over Georgia but a pair of tough losses to Texas A&M and Missouri.

Even a 48-34 win over Vanderbilt in Week 4 was classified as "embarrassing":

So it shouldn't have come as a total surprise when Spurrier again spoke frankly about his team on his weekly call-in show (h/t John Whittle of TheBigSpur):

Somebody said, "If the fans bitch, what do you think?" I just say, "They should bitch about the way we perform." As long as we’re playing with effort and smarts, I think the fans are fine.

When we can’t cover kickoffs and we can’t do this, that and the other, it’s embarrassing. I’m embarrassed at times the way we play. If we play smart, fundamentally sound and get beat, maybe we can live with that. Let’s give it our best effort. We’ll keep pushing to see if we can get the best effort out of these guys.

When it comes to Spurrier, who is a walking sound clip, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Timesput it best: "Spurrier doesn't try to be mean, it's just impossible for him to sugar coat the truth."

That's a big reason why Spurrier's a favorite with national media. He has a flair for trolling, and there's likely as much coachspeak in him as there is body fat on a professional bodybuilder.

As that relates to Spurrier's quote above, he isn't saying anything that's not true. Just about every coach would echo the sentiment that if a team is playing smart and with effort, the losses can be easier to live with—though it'd still be hard.

This isn't Spurrier calling his team a "pile of crap," a la Charlie Weis, either. Spurrier may be blunt, but he's not malicious in this instance.

Nor has Spurrier been malicious this season when talking about his team. He's been critical and at times complimentary, but he's always been himself.

That leads to another point: Every coach has a different style when talking about his team publicly, just as every coach has a different style when handling his team behind closed doors.

As the Houston Chronicle's Mike Finger notes, first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong, for example, refuses to criticize the team he has:

The more important factor is if a coach is the same person every day with his team.

If Spurrier's public comments are any indication, he's the same coach every day. That establishes a clear expectation which players are able to follow. Every coach is hard on his team—the important thing is that he's consistent with his approach.

If Spurrier is consistent, and he's been in the game long enough for us to believe that's the case, then chances are his players aren't taken aback by anything he said this week, the week before or the week before that. Furthermore, they're probably not going to be be taken aback by anything he says in the future. 

Regardless of South Carolina's record going forward, those players will continue to play hard for Spurrier and each other.

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. Unless otherwise cited, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Micah Abernathy Commits to Tennessee: What 4-Star CB Brings to Vols

Tennessee suffered a heartbreaking 35-32 loss to Georgia two weeks ago, but Butch Jones and the Vols earned a huge win Friday morning over the ‘Dawgs by landing a commitment from 2015 4-star corner Micah Abernathy.

The Atlanta native selected the Vols over offers from Georgia, Oregon and Alabama, among others. The decision comes on the heels of his official visit to Knoxville last weekend. 

“After my three officials, we sat down and talked about it on Monday,” Abernathy told 247Sports' Rusty Mansell (via Ryan Callahan of GoVols247). “We talked about it a little bit Wednesday and a little bit Thursday, and then I decided I’m going to be a Vol.”

He’s the latest big-time pledge for Jones, who has quietly put together a class that is rated No. 3 overall in the country.

Abernathy is a major pull for the Vols for a number of reasons. 

For starters, he's the seventh metro-Atlanta area recruit who has pledged to the Vols in this cycle. That's a huge presence for an out-of-state school in one of the most talent-laden hotbeds in the country.  

Three of those players, Abernathy included, are among the state's top 25 prospects in the 2015 class.

At 6'1", 187 pounds, Abernathy has the size and the athleticism necessary to contribute in a secondary that will have to replace senior starter Justin Coleman next season. 

While he's still raw at the corner position, it's hard to ignore the physical tools he brings to the table, as Barton Simmons, the 247Sports director of scouting, told Callahan (subscription required): “Micah is the type of player whose best football is in front of him. Athletically, he’s got all the tools you want in a big SEC cornerback. He’s got elite size. He can really run. He’s physical. He’s athletically elite. He’s just raw and relatively inexperienced at the cornerback position."

However, the largest impact of his decision coincides with the ability of Jones and his staff to go into the Peach State and beat out a power such as Georgia for a player the Bulldogs coveted.

Considering the struggles that Tennessee's program has endured over the last decade, victories such as this one on the recruiting trail are taken as signals that the days of being an afterthought in the SEC East are coming to an end soon.

“For this to be a kid that Georgia wanted and for Tennessee to come in and go head-to-head, weekend-to-weekend on official visits and beat the Dawgs, I think that really is a testament to where the Tennessee program is," Simmons said.

With Tennessee's class making noise on the national scene, the buzz surrounding the Vols program is clearly a positive factor with a number of the nation's top recruits. 

By landing studs such as Abernathy, Jones and his staff are sending a message to the nation and the rest of the SEC that the Vols program is one that is on the rise.

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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