SEC Media Days: Steve Spurrier confident heading into 8th year as head coach

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Marc Torrence

Steve Spurrier stepped up to the podium on Tuesday at SEC Media Days a confident man. He boasted about his team’s improved offense and relentless defense. And that (Game-) cocky attitude could eventually send his team to Atlanta, where Spurrier hopes South Carolina can win the program’s first SEC Championship.

“Going into [my] eighth year, we sort of assembled better players, coaches, everything around us that gives us a chance to be successful,” Spurrier said. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen until we start playing the games.”

One thing Spurrier knows he’ll have heading into the season is one of the best quarterbacks in a league full of talent under center. Connor Shaw enters the 2012 season with eight games of starting experience under his belt and will be the center of an offense that features an array of talent.

Shaw is a dual threat quarterback who can beat teams with his legs just as much as he can with his arms. Spurrier noted that over the last four games of the season, he was the highest-rated passer in the country and hopes his signal-caller can carry that into the upcoming season.

“He doesn’t have a lot of interest outside of being the best quarterback he can,” Spurrier said. “Connor is a guy that when it breaks down, he can run for the first down, and that’s so important.”

“I’m not going to take my legs away from me,” Shaw said. “That’s a key asset to my abilities.”

Behind Shaw will be running back Marcus Lattimore, a five-star recruit coming out of high school, who followed a breakout freshman year in 2010 with a 2011 season that saw him watching from the sidelines with a knee injury he sustained in week seven vs. Mississippi State.

Spurrier said his workhorse back is recovering ahead of schedule and will be ready to roll when the season starts.

“The doctors can do wonderful things now with those knee surgeries,” he said. “Marcus has rehabbed beautifully and done everything they’ve asked and more. He should be ready to go.”

The expectations are as high as they’ve ever been in Columbia, S.C., and Spurrier noted that the results haven’t been that friendly when so much has been predicted of the Gamecocks. But a favorable schedule has South Carolina poised for what could be a memorable year in the team’s history.

“We expect ourselves to be [in national title contention],” Shaw said. “We have a ways to go. We still have to go out there and play the game.”

It starts right out of the gate for Shaw and South Carolina, with a Thursday night SEC showdown in Nashville against Vandy that will be an early test of whether or not this Gamecock team is ready to contend for an SEC and national title.

“Our expectations are high,” he said. “But we know we can fall flat on our face if we don’t stay on our toes.”