HYAMS: SEC News & Notes

Steve Spurrier's first order of business as South Carolina's coach -- make the players eat right.

Spurrier learned quickly about two fast-food restaurants within walking distance of Williams-Brice Stadium where players were eating fried chicken before practices and games.

 

``From what I understand, this team doesn't eat correctly or hasn't been eating correctly,'' Spurrier said. ``We're going to try to improve the nutrition, also. We're not going to try to load up on fried chicken.''

 

Said defensive end Moe Thompson: ``No more riding a golf cart down to Bojangles.''

 

Spurrier said his staff would keep a close eye on his players' diets.

 

``We want to be a strong, fast team,'' he said. ``We're going to try our best to get players to eat correctly. Sometimes it's a struggle, but we'll try to improve nutrition. It's OK maybe once a week to go to the fried chicken places, but a steady diet of it is proven not to be the best.''

 

Spurrier is hopeful junior receiver Troy Williamson, who led the SEC with 75.9 receiving yards per game, will return. He is considering leaving early for the NFL.

 

While at Florida, Spurrier said he had two receivers he told to leave early -- Reidel Anthony and Ike Hilliard.

 

``They had achieved about the most you could but Troy hasn't done that,'' Spurrier said. ``Troy hasn't had as big a year as he's capable. He's capable of some big things. I'd love the chance to coach him. But if he does decide (to leave), we're going to coach somebody else.''

 

 

 

* Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer took a jab at new South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier while at a recent Knoxville Quarterback Club meeting.

 

Former Tennessee offensive lineman Reggie Coleman was a guest as a former player and told the audience that he enjoyed his time at Tennessee. When he said he was drafted by Washington and Steve Spurrier, Coleman looked at Fulmer and said: ``Sorry coach, but you gotta do what you gotta do.''

 

Responded Fulmer: ``He lasted about as long as you did (in the NFL).''

 

Meanwhile, Spurrier was low-key during his hiring press conference, disappointing some Gamecock fans who wanted to hear the arrogance and one-liners typical of Spurrier.

 

Former Gator center Jeff Mitchell, who plays for Carolina, isn't sold on the new Spurrier.

 

``That's a load of do-do,'' Mitchell said. ``They've got some entertainment on the way, especially after they start winning. I'm glad I'm close enough to read the quotes.''

 

Mitchell said everyone would know what Spurrier is thinking because he speaks his mind.

 

``If he's feeling cocky, he's going to come across that way,'' Mitchell said. ``He knows he's good.''

 

 

 

* After South Carolina's Lou Holtz announced his retirement, he seemed disgusted in pointing out the irony of his last game compared to the man he worked for at Ohio State many years ago.

 

``How about this: Both me and Woody Hayes are both going to be remembered for a fight against Clemson,'' Holtz said.

 

 

 

* Entering the SEC Championship game, Auburn had been a remarkably healthy team while Tennessee had been hit with a plethora of problems.

 

Auburn players have missed just five starts all season because of injury or suspension -- two at center, two at linebacker and one at cornerback.

 

Because of injuries or suspensions, Tennessee has had 15 players miss 60 starts. If you count defensive tackle J.T. Mapu, who is on a Mormon Mission, that's 16 players who have missed 71 starts.

 

Auburn has been hit by fewer injuries than any SEC team in recent memory.

 

 

 

* When Auburn met Tennessee in the SEC Championship, it marked the 13th consecutive game in this series that Auburn or Tennessee entered ranked in the top 10.

 

The higher ranked team is 7-3-2. As the higher ranked team, Auburn is 3-2-2. Tennessee is 4-1.

 

 

 

* David Cutcliffe's loyalty cost him his job at Ole Miss.

 

Despite being the only Rebel coach to win at least seven games in his first five seasons, Cutcliffe was fired hen he wouldn't make changes on his staff. That wouldn't have been a problem for a lot of coaches. It was for Cutcliffe.

 

The firing outraged the famous Rebel of all, Archie Manning: ``We have a lost a good man who did incredible things for the Ole Miss program. How you can post five straight winning seasons at Ole Miss and then get fired in your sixth is beyond me. This is a sad day for all of us. The guys is a good football coach and a very good man. He did not deserve to be treated like this.''

 

Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said Cutcliffe refused to submit a written plan to fix problems within the program. The main concern was a defense that has often been among the SEC's worst.

 

Still, Cutcliffe gave Ole Miss its first 10-win season since 1971 and its first piece of an SEC title in 40 years when the Rebels tied LSU for the West Division last year.

 

``He preferred status quo, keeping things how they are,'' Boone said. ``We had peaks and valleys of emotional levels by the players. Sometimes they've motivated, sometimes they're not.''

 

Ole Miss was 4-7 and lost four games by 19 combined points.

 

Another factor: Cutcliffe was not well-liked by some of the money boosters, according to media that cover the program.

 

 

 

* Kentucky coach Rich Brooks' job was saved after offensive coordinator Ron Hudson resigned before the last game of the season.

 

The Wildcats went 2-9 and were ranked 115 in the nation in total offense and 114 in scoring.

 

The change of coordinators paid immediate dividends as Kentucky had 270 first-half yards against Tennessee, scored on drives of 83, 77 and 88 yards and passed on first down 15 times before losing 37-31.

 

Brooks pounded a table and spilled a diet coke as he tried to explain the upset that got away.

 

``We were this close,'' Brook said, holding fingers an inch apart. ``We were this close to doing something no Kentucky team has done to Tennessee in 20 years. We played a heck of a game and the wrong team won.''

 

Kentucky hadn't scored more than 17 points in a game since beating Indiana 51-32 on Sept. 18.

 

One of Kentucky's best talents is 6-6 freshman Lonnell Dewalt, who blocked an extra point and a field-goal attempt against Tennessee. Dewalt has seven blocked kicks (six field-goal attempts) this season -- believed to be an NCAA record.

 

Meanwhile, Kentucky finished the season ranked last in the SEC in scoring offense, scoring defense, run offense, run defense, total offense and total defense.

 

 

 

* Bobby Gaston, coordinator of SEC officials, said he will recommend instant replay be used in the SEC next year.

 

Gaston and Dr. Rogers Redding, one of the SEC's technical advisors, went to the Big Ten to get a first-hand look at its use of instant replay and came away impressed.

 

``I saw what they are doing and I live it,'' Gaston said. ``There are some things we'd tweak, and do a little differently. But what they do has a lot of merit.

 

``Primarily, they are interested in overturning the obvious, big-time play that can affect the outcome of the game -- whether it's a reception or incomplete pass, a fumble before or after the player hit the ground, things of that nature.

 

``Obviously, we're not going to get them all right. I wish we could. But I do think this (instant replay) has a chance to improve our `hit' record.''

 

The Big Ten used the replay 43 times in 53 games and overturned 21 calls.

 

 

 

* Not long after Arkansas endured its first losing season under Houston Nutt, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was fired.

 

Arkansas yielded 397.2 yards per game, the highest total since 1990. The Hogs gave up at least 35 points to Florida, Auburn, South Carolina and LSU. They ranked 10th in the SEC in total defense, 11th in pass defense and eighth in scoring defense.

 

``I'll be the first to tell you we played poor defense for the most part,'' said Wommack, who returned just three starters from the previous season. ``I knew that and understood that. I'm more disappointed than anybody from that standpoint. You do the best with what you have.''

 

Wommack said he had two job offers during the offseason, one in college, one in the pros. Still, he said he is not bitter because that's part of the business.

 

``If you can't live with it,'' he said, ``you shouldn't be in this business.''

 

The firing came a day after Nutt met with athletic director Frank Broyles.

 

``I told Houston he's the best man in the country for this job,'' Broyles said.

 

 

 

* Georgia quarterback David Greene fractured his left (throwing hand) thumb on the first series against Georgia Tech, but stayed in the game to throw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Fred Gibson.

 

Greene played one more series than went to the bench. But when Georgia Tech rallied, Greene went in to lead a momentum-changing field goal drive that consumed almost 5 minutes. He couldn't make any deep throws and he worked from the shotgun to lesson the pain of taking a snap.

 

Greene, who was just 6 of 12 for 80 yards against Tech, has surpassed Peyton Manning in two major categories -- most wins in Division 1-A (41) and most passing yards in the SEC (11,264).

 

Coach Mark Richt: ``Greene wasn't at his best physically but he was at his best in the leadership role and leading us to that last field goal.

 

``I was sitting there thinking, `This is the last game he's going to play in this stadium. Who am I to keep him out? So I let him go back in.''

 

That Greene had to return is a negative for Georgia's future. D.J. Shockley, projected to start for Georgia next year, was 5 of 16 for 112 yards and was sacked four times for minus-45 yards.

 

``I threw some bad balls,'' Shockley said. ``There also were some times when I held on to the ball too long. I've got to do a better job of that.''

 

 

EXTRA POINTS: The 43-14 loss to LSU by Arkansas was its first in 18 games at Little Rock under Houston Nutt …. After allowing Kentucky 337 yards in three quarters, Tennessee's defense stiffened to hold the Wildcats to minus-14 yards in the fourth quarter. … Tennessee senior defensive end Karlton Neal was asked if he thought about losing to Kentucky: ``You never go into a game thinking you're going to lose. But it crossed my mind if we do lose, I might have to kill somebody.'' … Vanderbilt lost five games by a combined 15 points and had a fourth straight two-win season. … After three recent firings, Sylvester Croom of Mississippi State is one of just two black head coaches in Division 1-A. … Auburn's scoring margin in regular-season SEC games was 18.9 points and its nine wins of at least 18 points was the most in the nation. … Florida backup quarterback Justin Midgett has decided to transfer and has contacted South Carolina, South Florida and Eastern Illinois.

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