COLUMBIA, S.C. - Steve Spurrier Jr. moves with his dad's confident stride and sounds like his father when talking about South Carolina's potential for success on the football field. Gamecocks players, though, have seen the differences in the school's newest father-son football duo.
"Coach Spurrier's thing is he likes to get down to business," wide receiver Sidney Rice said, a wide grin on his face. "Junior likes to joke with us every once in a while."
Where the elder Spurrier demands less giggling and more focus, Spurrier Jr. brings some levity practice. The receivers coach might ask one of wideouts what route they've run. If they answer correctly, the 33-year-old coach will stare blankly and say, "Huh? What are you talking about?"
OK, so it's not Jerry Seinfeld or Dave Chappelle. But in the midst of brutally hot, two-a-day August workouts, any bit of humor goes a long way.
"I love him," receiver Syvelle Newton said.
Family reunions have been common at South Carolina. For the past six years, Skip Holtz was a key assistant for dad Lou with the Gamecocks.
Spurrier Jr. was a graduate assistant and receivers coach under his father at Florida from 1994-98 when the Gators won three Southeastern Conference championships and a national title. The pair also worked together in the NFL, going 12-20 in two seasons with the Washington Redskins.
In between, Spurrier Jr. coached on Oklahoma's national championship club with his father's former defensive coordinator, Bob Stoops.
After spending last fall as an Arizona assistant, Spurrier Jr. returned east when his dad succeeded Holtz.
"We have a good relationship," Spurrier Jr. said. "I thoroughly agree with the things he's trying to do and I feel like I've been around him long enough to have an understanding of how he wants to get things done."
Sometimes, it's hard to tell who's who. Besides the resemblance, Spurrier Jr. often channels his father's cadence and commonsense answers.
Asked about expectations for South Carolina's receivers, the younger coach simply replies: "Awwwhhhh, just the same you have anywhere. Play well, play hard, they need to be tough, they need to be smart, they need to make plays."
Spoken like South Carolina's "head ball coach," as Spurrier prefers over "ol' ball coach."
Spurrier Jr. also buys into his dad's "Why not us?" opinion of South Carolina's future. Just because the Gamecocks haven't won big in the Southeastern Conference, doesn't mean they won't, said Spurrier Jr.
"This is a good opportunity outside of my dad," Spurrier Jr. said.
Spurrier Jr. was not a college football star like his Heisman Trophy-winning father. He walked on at Duke in 1990 a year after Spurrier left as Blue Devils coach to return to his alma mater of Florida. Spurrier Jr. thought about following his family to Gainesville. Instead, he earned a scholarship and became a two-year starter at receiver.
Spurrier Jr. then went for his graduate degree at Florida, joining his father's staff.
The elder Spurrier doesn't talk much about his coaching son.
"That's hard to do, a dad talking about his son," he said.
When he does, though, you can hear the pride and affection.
"When he's been on my staff... he was actually probably the best recruiter," Spurrier said. One year, Spurrier recalled, his son signed seven or eight players for the Gators, "almost all the guys he went after."
"Hopefully, he's earned his way," Spurrier said. "If he doesn't, it's my job to get rid of him just like everybody else."
That's happened before at South Carolina - sort of.
After the 2003 season ended with a 63-17 home loss to rival Clemson, Holtz yanked the offense and the coordinator's title from Skip, whose given name is Lou Holtz Jr. Skip coached quarterbacks last season, leaving after his father's resignation to become East Carolina's head coach.
The younger Spurrier didn't know the details of Skip's demotion, but he doesn't believe the same problems could arise in the relationship with his father.
"There are very few times where I make a decision that makes the team look bad. Or I can take the blame or whatever happened," he said. "And you know what, I'll probably never be my dad's offensive coordinator.... So that sort of lessens the tension level of the relationship we're in."
Spurrier Jr. hopes to become a head coach and knows, since Spurrier's unlikely ever to cede offensive control to anyone else, he'll likely have to leave his dad's side to gain coordinator's experience. Until then, he'll eagerly soak up what he can.
"The older you get, you realize you need to enjoy it as much as you can," Spurrier Jr. said. "I've been blessed I've been able to coach with the people I've coached with... Hopefully, I can continue to learn."
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