North Carolina-South Carolina Preview

Steve Spurrier still loves to beat North Carolina. He’ll get

another chance when the sixth-ranked Gamecocks open the season

against the Tar Heels on Thursday night.

Spurrier got his college football coaching start at Duke in 1987

and won all three meetings with rival North Carolina before moving

on to become Florida’s head coach. The Blue Devils have gone 2-21

in the series since Spurrier left to coach his alma mater after the

1989 season.

Spurrier has always been grateful that Duke gave him the chance

to coach and said Sunday that it’s still special when he faces the

Tar Heels.

”Us Dukies back then, that was our big game. I doubt if it was

for North Carolina because we did not beat them that much,”

Spurrier said. ”But when I was there we were fortunate enough to

actually beat them more than they beat us.”

Spurrier’s continued that touch the only time the two state

schools have played since he joined South Carolina, a 21-15

Gamecock victory at Chapel Hill in 2006.

”Yeah, it is a little special when you are coaching against a

team like” North Carolina, Spurrier said.

Spurrier wouldn’t mind creating more special moments this

season. The Gamecocks are coming off two straight 11-2 seasons –

something that had never been done in program history – and feature

one of the country’s most talked-about players in All-American

defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

It’s been nearly impossible to ignore the 6-foot-6, 274-pound

junior since he sent runner Vincent Smith’s helmet flying in South

Carolina’s Outback Bowl victory over Michigan last New Year’s

Day.

The Heisman Trophy talk (Clowney finished sixth in last year’s

balloting) began soon after and hasn’t slowed up. Like former North

Carolina coach Dean Smith and Tar Heel Michael Jordan, Spurrier’s

tried to slow down the outsized expectations surrounding the

reigning Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.

Spurrier closed public practices, in part to keep autograph

hounds from pestering the good-natured Clowney on his way to and

from the practice field. Clowney hasn’t spoken to media since Aug.

4 and won’t, by Spurrier’s direction, until after Thursday night’s

contest.

”Jadeveon, obviously, he and `Johnny Football’ are the two guys

the whole country’s been talking about,” Spurrier said, referring

to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. ”And I think

Jadeveon’s handled it very well. He’s ready to go.”

Clowney better be. North Carolina has an experienced quarterback

in Bryn Renner and a high-tempo offense that coach Larry Fedora

used to succeed at Southern Miss.

Renner has thrown 54 touchdowns the past two years and is the

only Tar Heels passer with more than 20 TDs in multiple

seasons.

Fedora says Renner’s improved in decision-making, leadership and

knowledge of the offensive system. ”Big difference between now and

last year this time,” the coach said.

South Carolina’s Chaz Sutton, the other defensive end on the

Gamecocks, believes there’s a huge difference, too, on his

defensive line because Clowney had made others step up their games,

too, during fall camp. Sutton said that will show in the

opener.

”Any game we go into we just want to prove we can get to the

quarterback quick and fast in a game,” Sutton said. ”We just want

to set the tone with our front four and be that way all

night.”

Spurrier has said camp has gone well, although he’s concerned

with a couple of areas. Behind Clowney and the defensive line are

some young linebackers who, while talented and fast, don’t have

game experience. The offensive line, which looked awful during

scrimmages against Clowney, has tightened up some during workouts,

Spurrier said.

Plus, injuries to receiver Bruce Ellington and tight end Rory

Anderson have left the receiving corps short-handed, although the

two are expected to play Thursday night.

”Anyway, we’ll keep working on it up to game time and see if we

can’t pitch it around a little bit better than we have the last few

days,” he said.