There is no more familiar sight on a Southeastern Conference sideline these days that Steve Spurrier.
For all but three of the past 20 years he has been in charge of one of the league’s teams – first Florida (1990-2001) and since 2005 South Carolina.
In that time, he helped revolutionize the game of college football, specifically with his approach to the passing game. While many others have caught on to what he’s done, he consistently has worked to make sure they haven’t caught up.
“He’s pretty consistent in that he’s always changing,” Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said. “He’s consistent in his philosophy and the basics of what he wants to do – he’s going to get matchups, read what coverage you’re in and have the right route for the right coverage.
“He’s kept coming up with new ways to do that. I’m sure we’ll get something totally new on Saturday.”
What the Commodores (2-5, 0-4 in the SEC) hope does not change when they face the 23rd-ranked Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2) 6 p.m. (CDT), Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium (ESPNU-Comcast Ch. 272) is the result.
Vanderbilt has won the last two in the series and has allowed Spurrier’s offense a total of 23 points in those contests. The other four teams in the SEC East each scored at least 20 against the Commodores each of the last two seasons.
In the most recent meeting VU intercepted two South Carolina passes and recovered one fumble and finished with a plus-2 in turnover ratio.
“They're a zone blitz team, (and) they do it very well,” Spurrier said. “They make few mistakes. They're in position where they're supposed to be. You have to execute to beat them. We had more yards than they did last year but that' doesn't determine the winner. We had more turnovers the last two years.”
The offenses of Vanderbilt and South Carolina both currently rank near the bottom of the SEC in points scored and are in the bottom half in total yards. Their respective struggles, though, are completely different.
“They've not thrown very well but they have run it,” Spurrier said. “They run it better than we have.”
The Gamecocks average 357.1 yards of offense per contest, which is just 27 yards more than the Commodores. Yet more than half of VU’s yards are from the running game (179.6) while the bulk of USC’s are through the air (217.3).
For a team coached by Spurrier, that sort of pass-heavy approach is nothing new.
“A lot of people do (similar things),” Johnson said. “But he was probably the leader in it for years and years and years.”