It was South Carolina day Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., which for Georgia fans meant expecting the Ol’ Ball Coach to deliver a few verbal jabs to the Red and Black.
Actually, Steve Spurrier was pretty restrained in his comments about Georgia. Asked why he’s been able to game plan against Mark Richt’s team so well in recent years, he said: “We’ve been pretty fortunate. Last year Georgia, they didn’t play very well at all. The first play of the game, their kid was getting ready to intercept it, and Damiere Byrd sort of plucked it out of their hands, we went down and scored. Everything went our way the first half, second half. But then they came back.”
As Spurrier noted, “you got to give Georgia credit” for still winning the SEC East the past two years. “We’ve beaten them the last two years, then they’ve won all their conference games. That game is important, but it didn’t determine the division champion. So we’re going to try to beat ‘em like we always do, and they’re going to try to beat us. But should be a heck of a game.”
True, you can parse that next to last sentence and wonder, was he saying they’re going to try like they always do to beat Georgia, or was he saying they always beat Georgia?
Mild stuff by Spurrier standards, but Georgia still came in for a bit of a battering, as it seemed the Gamecocks’ head coach had turned the pick-at-the-Bulldogs role over to his star defensive end, the 6-foot-6, 247-pound monster known as Jadeveon Clowney, who seemed to take the role on with relish, drawing most of the headlines for his assertion that UGA’s Aaron Murray is among the quarterbacks who are “scared” of him (the others being Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson).
“You can look at a guy and tell if he’s scared,” Clowney said. “If he’s staring at me before the ball is snapped, if he’s staring at me before every snap, I’m just, like, ‘Oh, we got him.’ I (tell teammates), ‘He’s shook. We’ve just got to get a couple hits on him (and) he’ll turn the ball over.’ (He’ll be) throwing before he wants to, sliding.”
For good measure, Clowney opined that Florida is probably the Gamecocks’ biggest obstacle to winning the SEC East this year, not the team that’s won the East two consecutive years.
“I ain’t downing Georgia because I don’t know who they got,” he said. “I just know they graduate a lot of guys off their defense. That’s why I said that. … I just know that Georgia (lost) like nine defensive starters, so they’ve gotta put people in those spots. So it’ll be tough for them.”
Mostly, it was a show of supreme confidence on Clowney’s part, but a hint of frustration (maybe even desperation?) crept in when discussing the fact that Georgia has prevailed in the East the past two years despite losing to the Gamecocks.
“I don’t understand this SEC stuff anyways,” Clowney said. “Beat them and they still go to the SEC championship. We know we can get beat them. God, it irks me. … We’ve just got to pull it out this year.”
Naturally, Clowney’s comments didn’t go over well in Athens, with a few Georgia players tweeting their umbrage. As fullback Quayvon Hicks put it: “Georgia’s respect must be taken back.”
Nothing so far from Murray, and you’re not likely to get him engaging in a tit for tat with Clowney. He has too much class.
But facts are facts: Georgia has lost three in a row to South Carolina, and Clowney was able to completely disrupt the Dogs’ offense in last year’s debacle in Columbia.
If Hicks and company don’t like hearing what Clowney has to say, all they have to do is take up the challenge that the Gamecocks’ star said he issues to opposing players rather than taunting them.
“Block me. That’s all I can say.”
Do that, and the chatter out of the Gamecocks at next year’s Media Days is likely to be considerably more restrained.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg