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May 18, 2006[ Greenwood Meeting Photo Gallery ]
GREENWOOD - The opinion shared by most college football experts is that you can't win in the SEC with a true freshman quarterback.
Steve Spurrier may test that theory this season.
In a somewhat surprising proclamation, Spurrier told approximately 500 fans attending the Greenwood County Gamecock Club meeting Wednesday night that he does not intend to redshirt incoming freshman quarterback Chris Smelley during the upcoming season.
"Will Chris Smelley redshirt? We're not planning on it right now," Spurrier said. "But I don't know how fast he can run our stuff or how fast he can come around. We're going to give him a chance to push Blake if he can."
Attempts to reach Smelley Wednesday night at his Tuscaloosa, Ala., home for comment were unsuccessful.
Spurrier has praised Smelley at nearly every stop on this spring's Gamecock Club tour. A few weeks ago, he said he sent Smelley a playbook and DVD containing the Gamecocks' offense.
Smelley, set to graduate soon from American Christian Academy, was ranked by Rivals as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the nation. Smelley was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Alabama after throwing for a state-record 4,120 yards and 59 touchdowns during his senior season.
"I think and a lot of people think that (Smelley) has something special about him," Spurrier told the Greenwood crowd. "He can move around and throw the ball very well. He has a chance to be a big-time player for us."
Smelley smashed Brodie Croyle's state record for career touchdown passes with 134. His career passing yardage of 10,385 yards ranks second all-time in Alabama. His record during his final three seasons at ACA was 39-3.
But his comments regarding Smelley weren't the only ones to cause the crowd to gasp.
Spurrier said he is often asked by fans whether 2006 will be a "rebuilding year" for the Gamecocks.
His response was thought-provoking, and pure Spurrier.
"It's not a rebuilding year because South Carolina football has never been built the right way. Our fundraising department has never been built the right way," Spurrier said. "We want to be big-time. We want to be on the same level with Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. It will take better overall facilities to have the recruiting playing field as level as possible. We can get there."
Spurrier reiterated to the media that he will be heavily involved in the fundraising process during the capital campaign drive.
"Just the message coming from the head coach is the main thing," Spurrier said. "Some of our boosters are in position to make substantial contributions. But other than that, I'm not a fundraiser. Hopefully, I'm still the football coach. But (fundraising) is a little bit part of it. We've got people to do that part."
WYRICK'S FIRST DAY: After watching Chris Wyrick, USC's new Associate Athletic Director for Development and Gamecock Club Director, preach to the Greenwood County crowd Wednesday, it's easy to see why he has been given the responsibility of raising at least $100 million for much-needed improvements to USC's athletic facilities.
Wednesday was Wyrick's first official day in the job, a day he described as "awesome."
Wyrick, a dynamic speaker, fired up the crowd with a speech that would have made most politicians envious. He said he took the pressure-packed job in part because USC fans are "crazy." He was also realistic, though, acknowledging that "things are broken in the athletic department right now."
With his wife still in Nashville, Wyrick told Gamecock Central after the Greenwood meeting that he will spend most of his time during the next month or so on the road soliciting donations and seeking input from USC alumni for the capital campaign.
"I have a long list of donors, large and small, that we're going to get a chance to know," Wyrick said. "We want to figure out what the culture is, what their expectations of Gamecock athletics are, and get an opportunity to let them know what our vision is, which is (USC is) a great place, there are a lot of things that work well. But for those things that don't work well, we're going to have to be committed to changing. That's everything from the way we do our seating to our parking. We have some issues we have to look at."
Wyrick said the response to the capital campaign has been extremely positive from USC fans.
"There's hasn't been a single person that hasn't shaken my hand that didn't say that didn't want to step it up and help us out. As we have said, it takes a Nation. If everyone will incrementally step it up to the next level we can get it done."
While Wyrick said it could take five to seven years to raise a substantial sum equivalent to $100 million, that time frame could be accelerated based on the continued success of the football team under Spurrier.
"If Steve Spurrier continues to go out and do what he did tonight, that is paint the vision, and let the fans know how important it is for them to step up, there is no timetable," Wyrick said. "It will just be a matter of how many folks we can see in a day and we're committed to seeing as many as we can."
-- Wednesday marked Spurrier's first visit to Greenwood as part of the Gamecock Club tour. "It's nice to come to some new cities," Spurrier said. "They've got a chance to become part of the regular Gamecock Club tour."
-- Spurrier acknowledged the contributions of Greenwood High product Ricardo Hurley to the USC football program. Hurley signed with the Gamecocks in 2002 as one of the top-rated prep linebackers in the nation. Spurrier said Hurley was awarded a game ball for his key tackle on a third-and-1 situation near the end of the Arkansas game that helped prevent the Razorbacks from gaining a first down. Spurrier said Hurley had a chance to earn a job in the NFL.
-- For the first time on the Gamecock Club tour, Spurrier mentioned that he needs 65 wins to pass Rex Enright and become the winningest coach in USC history. Spurrier said his health was great and that he plans to coach at USC for at least a decade. "I assure you that I feel better than I did 20 years ago," Spurrier said. "I hope to go 10 years at South Carolina so we can get this thing built the right way and get it rolling for the next guy."
--Spurrier asserted the Gamecock players "settle for mediocrity" too often. "Sometimes our guys don't know what really playing well is all about," Spurrier said.
-- Spurrier was pleased with ESPN's decision to televise the Georgia game on Sept. 9 at 7:45 p.m. "It's nice that they consider putting us on at that time," Spurrier said. "I think last year they put us on at five o'clock." Spurrier was also happy with the fact that USC's first five games of the season will be played at night.
-- Spurrier was mildly surprised that The Sporting News ranked Fred Bennett as the No. 3 cornerback in the nation. "I hope he plays like the third best," Spurrier told a small group of reporters before the meeting. "He's capable. Fred has a lot of ability but he hasn't hit his peak yet. I hope he plays more physical. In the spring game he was beaten by a freshman on a slant and he didn't even touch him. That scares you. It was sad." Later, Spurrier told the Greenwood crowd that Bennett "didn't play all that super last year. He can play a lot better than he played. We have a lot of guys like that."
-- Spurrier said he admired the USC men's basketball team because of the strong way it finished the season.
-- Spurrier said again that incoming freshman Emanuel Cook will likely get a long look at outside linebacker or strong safety. "We need to find somebody who can tackle," Spurrier told the crowd. "I'm not going to watch what I watched in the Missouri game and I know you don't want to watch it either. We're going to try to put our best athletes on the field. Emanuel is one of our best athletes."
-- Spurrier said that winning one game from the "Big Three" (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee) of the SEC East would be a great accomplishment for this year's team. "I like to be realistic," Spurrier said. "You have to be realistic when you set your goals for your team because if you fall flat on your face the players don't listen to you anymore."
-- Spurrier asked for a show of hands as to who left the Kentucky game early. USC outscored Kentucky, 34-6, in the second half to pull away for a 44-16 victory.
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