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Palmer’s also convinced Spurrier is every bit the offensive mastermind who turned the game on its ear during the 1990s. He says where Spurrier excels, though, is during games. “That’s what he’s best at and that hasn’t gone away,” Palmer said.

Still, Spurrier’s so-so mark at South Carolina has drawn smirks of delight from fans of the teams he used to needle during his Florida days.

“That’s just part of society,” said ESPN’s Andre Ware, like Spurrier a Heisman Trophy winner. “But being dominant is not an easy chore.”

Spurrier’s quick success at South Carolina in 2005 _ the Gamecocks beat Tennessee and Florida in the same season for the first time ever _ led some to believe a league title was close at hand. Spurrier knew differently.

“We didn’t think we were going to just step in there and tear it up at South Carolina,” he said.

Now, though, Spurrier’s eager to see some results after five years of work. He has brought as much energy as ever into taking that next step, his son says. Not that the Gamecocks don’t have concerns as the opener with Southern Miss approaches on Sept. 2.

South Carolina hopes Lattimore can become a focal point for a running attack that was dead last in the SEC the past three seasons. Spurrier has yet to settle publicly on a quarterback between last year’s starter Stephen Garcia and freshman Connor Shaw. Plus, there’s the ongoing saga of suspended tight end Weslye Saunders, who’s talked to the NCAA about attending a South Beach party last May.

Through it all, Spurrier’s kept the drive to excel in what may be his best chance yet at a South Carolina breakthrough.

“He’s full speed and excited about this year,” Spurrier Jr. said. “And he’s pushing everybody to make sure we make the most of it.”