HOOVER, Ala. – The wit and the blunt responses to almost any topic make Steve Spurrier a favorite at SEC Media Days.
The South Carolina coach who won a national championship at Florida kicked things off Tuesday morning, and the topic – one of them – was big-money donors.
Many coaches publicly thank private contributors, but Spurrier stated the obvious with detail more suited for a backyard barbecue rather than in front of more than 1,000 credentialed media.
“Joe Rice is one of our big donors,” Spurrier said. “He took me to the Bahamas on his jet airplane, on his yacht. It was a pretty good trip.”
South Carolina’s “friends of the program” didn’t greet Spurrier with open wallets the day he was hired.
It was four years before recruiting picked up. Wins followed, and so did the money.
Spurrier says there had been one million-dollar donor in South Carolina’s football history before his arrival. Now he estimates 12-13.
“They’re very important. The big donors in college are similar to owners in the NFL. The best part of it is they don’t tell us what to do, what plays to call and so forth,” he said.
Spurrier said he works to maintain relationships with these donors. One way he does that is a dinner hosted by he and his wife in their honor. This year’s is scheduled for Aug. 15.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin threw a redshirt freshman quarterback to the wolves two years ago, and things worked out well.
Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy and led the Aggies to 20 wins over two years before being drafted by Cleveland in the first round this spring.
Now, it’s possible Sumlin could name a true freshman as starter. It wasn’t an announcement he made Tuesday, although he indicated that could come a couple of weeks, not days, from the team’s opener at South Carolina.
“In college football every two to three years you’re going to have turnover, and you have to have a plan for that. That’s what’s exciting about college football. I wouldn’t be so excited if I hadn’t recruited the Gatorade player of the year in Texas and the No. 1 quarterback in the country behind him,” Sumlin said.
Kenny Hill, a 6-1 sophomore, was Texas’ Gatorade winner in 2012. Kyle Allen, a pro style passer, was rated the No. 1 quarterback last year.
“They work hard, and they want to win,” senior offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi said. “They’re young, but they’re vocal. It’s impressive to see young guys step up and lead.”
Second-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones is glad to welcome back an upperclassman playmaker to be a voice of experience on a roster he says will be 50 percent brand new.
“There are new opportunities for everyone in our program,” Jones said.
There won’t be much experimentation with Curt Maggit, who is coming back from ACL surgery that forced him out of the 2013 season, though Jones may move him around at linebacker.
Maggit appeared in nine games and had five tackles for loss in 2012.
“He will be a presence. He demands respect, and to be able to have his voice on the field will be critical for us moving forward,” Jones said.
Fourteen members of the Vols’ No. 5-ranked recruiting class were early enrollees, a helpful fact for a team has to replace both interior lines.
The growing pains might be offset by two five-star recruits, running back Jalen Hurd and wide receiver Josh Malone.
“The whole key for us is how do we manage the natural adversity that a college football season brings about,” Jones said.