Thirteen days to go and South Carolina is right on schedule. Know how I know?
Because Saturday was Steve Spurrier's Seventh Annual Gripe About The Offense In Preseason Camp press conference.
It happens every year. The Gamecocks begin fall practice, the offense looks pretty decent during the first two weeks, it has a nice scrimmage where some long touchdown passes are thrown and everybody begins eagerly discussing Spurrier's mastery of the playbook. It's as routine as Tinker to Evers to Chance - or around here, Mooney to Wingo to Walker.
Just as routine, in fact, as the inevitable follow-up.
Invariably, the next practice or scrimmage will have some lethargic and sloppy offensive plays, the defense will dominate and Spurrier will sound off about it afterwards. I had an inkling it was coming when Stephen Garcia threw a deep pass 5 yards beyond an open receiver on Saturday, as Spurrier bent at the waist, placed his hands on his knees and began shaking his head.
Right then, I began preparing for the diatribe. I wrote out a checklist on my notepad.
During the previous six SSSAGATOIPCs, there were always four bullet points. One - Spurrier says the offense is so out of whack that USC will be lucky to be able to score 50 combined points all season. Two - Spurrier criticizes the quarterback. Three - Spurrier points out another offensive piece, be it player or strategy, that isn't working. Four - Spurrier says the team doesn't need to be bragging about anything after such a rotten day.
He hit them all again on Saturday. All four. I couldn't pat myself on the back because I was hastily writing down what he said, since I overslept and left my tape recorder at the house.
Step one: "The offense didn't do much at all. It was a little disappointing that the offense couldn't do much. That's where we are right now. We hit a few here and there, but nothing much at all."
Step two: "You all watched (Garcia). You were here. That's why I like for you guys to be here. Everybody thinks I'm critical of him. I'm not going to say anything." (Note: While he never said Garcia's name, the question was about Garcia, and while he didn't critique him, he sure didn't praise him.)
Step three: "We had another high snap again. It's embarrassing we can't snap the ball in the shotgun." (Note: This was followed by a decree that will banish centers T.J. Johnson and Travis Ford to The Land of Extra Practice for the foreseeable future, as each will be snapping 50 times after every session.)
Step four: "I told our guys today that we're probably an overrated bunch of dudes right now, and an overrated bunch of coaches right now. We don't look very good."
These have obviously been versed before. Happens every year.
But this time, instead of the Henny Penny reaction from the fan base, most seem to be taking it like I am - as part of the season. They all seem to realize what I know - of course it's not great to see the offense struggling, but it's a scrimmage, against one of the best defensive fronts in the SEC (and the country?) and the most important part: USC goes through this every year.
The scrimmages and practices have seen the skill players look good and bad, the linemen look good and bad, the defense and special teams looking good and bad. If it was perfect football all the time, it wouldn't be natural, and it sure wouldn't be South Carolina.
The expression says, "Good things come to those who wait," and USC's fans seem to be taking all of the preseason hype extremely well. Many, at least from what I've seen around the practice fields and stadium, are accepting the rankings, watch lists and predictions in stride as part of what they have been waiting on.
The bad scrimmage is past, and the previous six years have usually featured a strong performance in the sessions after the bad one. No doubt here that USC will respond and keeps looking stronger as Sept. 3 gets closer.
Although I am dusting off my checklist for the SSSAWJTTBAT, which should be any day now - the Steve Spurrier Seventh Annual We'll Just Try To Block And Tackle media session.
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