HOOVER, Ala. -- Famously tough on his quarterbacks, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier clearly is fond of the Gamecocks’ current starter at the position, former Flowery Branch High star Connor Shaw.
So much so that he brought Shaw, a junior, with him to Media Days.
“Our sports information guy, he said, ‘Coach, this is the first year since you’ve been at South Carolina that you brought a quarterback to this media day,’” Spurrier said.
“I said, ‘That’s right, isn’t it?’”
Each team brings three players, and Spurrier said he selects the Gamecocks’ delegates based on their ability to “represent our university and our football program in a first-class manner.”
Shaw seems untroubled by Spurrier’s reputation for being hard on quarterbacks. Shaw called his coach “pretty much a perfectionist.”
“I knew coming in that he critiques his quarterback hard, but that’s what you expect as a quarterback,” Shaw said. “In order to get better, you have to embrace that criticism and just listen to what he has to say.”
As for the Media Days spotlight, Shaw said, “I’m not big on media or preseason hype. I kind of just stay level-headed and focused on what I have to do on the field. But it is an incredible honor to be here.”
Shaw started nine games last season after the dismissal from the team of oft-suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia. Shaw ran for 525 yards and eight touchdowns and passed for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He completed 65.4 percent of his passes.
“We’ll … probably be more of a running team, play defense, pick your spots to throw the ball,” Spurrier said. “That’s not a bad formula. A little different than what I’ve coached in the past, [but] you can win a bunch of ballgames doing it that way.”
The Saban-Pinkel connection
So what type of football player was Nick Saban, the Alabama coach?
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel knows. He was Saban’s teammate for two seasons at Kent State, 1971 and ’72.
“As a player, great competitor,” Pinkel said. “Very tough, physical player. Very dedicated. Very committed. Very team oriented.
“I think that reflects the intensity level, very high intensity level. I think that’s the same guy you see coach and have the great success he’s had in college football.”
Under coach Don James at Kent State, Pinkel was a tight end and Saban a defensive back
“He had a remarkable influence on me,” Pinkel said of James, “as he did to Nick Saban.”
Pinkel succeeded Saban as the head coach at Toledo in 1991, when Saban left after one season to become defensive coordinator of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. On the way out the door, Saban phoned Pinkel and asked if he’d be interested in pursuing the Toledo job.
“He put me in a position to get an underneath opportunity,” Pinkel said. “That’s very important, an opportunity. I’m appreciative to him.”
Pinkel spent 10 years as Toledo’s head coach before taking the Missouri job in 2001.
Two James Franklins in the SEC
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was appreciative that Missouri quarterback James Franklin (no relation) is not attending SEC Media Days.
“I walked through the lobby last year, and nobody knew who I was,” said the Vanderbilt coach, who is much more recognized after a successful first season in the league. “I was very appreciative that coach Pinkel didn’t bring [his quarterback] this year because once again I would take the backseat to the other James Franklin.”
They said it
The SEC said about 1,100 credentials — an all-time high — were issued for Media Days, including about 750 to media members and the rest mainly to corporate partners and conference and school administrators. Thirty-three radio stations are broadcasting live shows from the event… . The festivities continue Wednesday with six more teams taking the stage: Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn and LSU. The event concludes Thursday with appearances by Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Georgia.
FULL AJC COVERAGE FROM DAY 1 OF SEC MEDIA DAYS: