The Ole Ball Coach Remains a Conundrum

Rob FowlerContributor IFebruary 10, 2010

TUSCALOOSA - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Steve Spurrier of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts to a call during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 17, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat the Gamecocks 20-6.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

As Steve Spurrier hauls in another impressive recruiting class, it appears that the Spurrier naysayers have silenced a little. 

However, the question still remains, lingering rather than imminent: Is Steve Spurrier still a formidable college football coach?

Now don't get me wrong, I am a strong Spurrier supporter. However, there is no way that any Carolina fan, no matter how pure, can refute much of the Spurrier hater's logic.

The Ole Ball Coach has had a rough going in the SEC since his return. After leaving for the NFL as the undisputed king of the SEC, he returned to a much bigger, faster, and stronger conference.

Spurrier has fully realized this fact, saying that he knows "it's going to be a dog fight every week" for his Carolina squad. However after hauling in impressive recruiting classes with each passing year, it is quite apparent that the 67-year-old is starting to like the fight in his dog more and more.

Then the season rolls around.

Here's the part where Spurrier rolls through the first half of the schedule, going 5-1 or 6-2, only to fall apart down the stretch. And don't forget the bowl games (I'm sure you've tried) that are just plain hard to watch.

There are games in which the offense works perfectly. Then there are games in which the Gamecocks struggle to amass a first down.

There are games in which the Carolina offense is an unrelenting rushing attack. Then there are games in which the stable of above average running backs see the ball 10 times the entire game.

Then there are the games that Steve Spurrier Jr. calls. Then the games that the Ole Ball Coach calls. Then the games that quarterback coach G.A. Mangus calls.

Then there are the games in which all three of them throw a play into a hat and they draw one scrap of paper blindly. See Bowl.

I can hear the die-hards now: "Whoa, whoa, whoa Rob! It's like you lured us in and then uppercut our love for Spurrier and his lovable high pitched country twang!"

Calm down now, I'm coming back.

So yes, Spurrier Haters, let me speak for Gamecock Nation when I say that all of your points are valid and are facts that cannot be argued against. And yes, there has been a fluctuating degree of coaching turmoil since Spurrier has taken over at Carolina.

However, I am also here to speak for Gamecock Nation in the sense that Spurrier has completely turned things around at Carolina.

When Spurrier took over at the school in 2005, I don't believe he was completely prepared for the culture renovation he was in for. Decades upon decades of mediocrity, much of which he contributed to in his time with Florida, had to be overcome before anything could be said about championships.

Then he went on to beat Florida, Tennessee, Clemson, and Georgia in his first two years—with some guy named Blake Mitchell at quarterback, no less—a feat that would've seemed unthinkable without the visor roaming the sidelines.

He brought an air of the elite with him to Carolina that seemed infectious. He also brought in solid coaches and recruiters. And for once, Carolina's football team was starting to look like one of the big, fast SEC football programs.

And Spurrier Haters, I should point out nothing more than his unmistakable recruiting prowess to quell your griping.

Spurrier has brought in great recruiting classes since taking over at a school that never really registered a blip on the power recruiting sites before his arrival. With classes ranked as high as seventh in the nation and never falling too far below 20th, Spurrier has kept a steady flow of talented football players coming into the program.

The Ole Ball Coach has proven himself to still be a recognizable recruiter, and he has shown that he still knows the recruiting back roads of Florida, as he is consistently able to steal away SEC bodies from the Sunshine State.

Spurrier has also made his mark in the home state.

Whether it's prying star receiver Alshon Jeffery away from Pete Carroll and Southern Cal or winning the battle over "Running Back U" with top rated running back Marcus Lattimore, Spurrier is managing to keep some of the best talent in the state close to home.

Now going into his sixth year, Spurrier seems poised to validate one side of the argument or the other. It could very well be this upcoming 2010 campaign that will tell the college football world whether Spurrier is still a formidable coach in the SEC. 

The question of talent is no longer there, and Spurrier seems to have everyone he wants around him at the coaching meetings. The offense is extremely talented at every skill position, and while the offensive line remains a question, another batch of big, mobile lineman report to campus soon.

So what'll it be, Ole Ball Coach? In what could be a down year for the SEC East, Carolina could peak with a skilled roster at the right time in 2010. If Carolina is even able to make the SEC title game, I believe it will validate Spurrier once again as a great college football coach.

However, it is just as likely that people will see from this team more mental mistakes, lack of effort and motivation, turnovers, and late collapses. If this happens, I think it's safe to say that Spurrier's coaching reputation will have deteriorated, and he will escape with what little coaching dignity he has left to the nearest golf course.

So will Steve Spurrier prove to be a formidable college football coach in 2010?

Your guess is as good as mine.



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