Spurrier hopeful despite bowl defeat

COLUMBIA --- Steve Spurrier wasn't crazy about how South Carolina's season ended. But he carries something into next year he had to search hard to find 12 months ago -- hope.

Spurrier was disappointed in the Gamecocks lackluster play in a 20-7 loss to Connecticut at the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., last Saturday to finish 7-6. But he has said his team's best days are still ahead, and he is not about to change that now.

"Looking forward to trying to get better because we're certainly are not there yet," Spurrier said in December. "We got a long way to go around here. But hopefully we've got some good young players and some on the way that are going to help us get there."

Alshon Jeffery became a breakout star at receiver in 2009, redshirt freshman tailback Kenny Miles led the Gamecocks in rushing while one-time problem child sophomore Stephen Garcia had a steady showing in first full season as starter.

Spurrier added five new assistants and a new strength coach in Craig Fitzgerald. They helped develop of one of South Carolina's best incoming classes ever.

Jeffery had been locked into Southern Cal when he shocked many recruiting analysts by sticking close to his South Carolina home and joining Spurrier.

After a slow start, Jeffery showed what the buzz was about. He finished as the team's leader with 46 receptions, 763 yards and six touchdown catches.

He got plenty of assistance from his young teammates.

Miles posted three 100-yard games, including 114 yards in a 34-17 win over rival Clemson.

On defense, freshman defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman saw extensive action.

Expect a tough spring from Spurrier. No one's job sounded safe following the loss to UConn. Spurrier apologized to the fans and promised to have a better prepared team in place by next season.

"We'll either play with some different guys next year, or we'll see if these guys can get better, those guys coming back," Spurrier said. "We've got some new guys coming in. We'll have some spirited competition in the spring, see who are our best players."

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