- Associated Press - Thursday, November 18, 2010

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Steve Spurrier doesn’t want his rebuilding job at South Carolina to end with one Southeastern Conference division title.

With two regular season games and the SEC title game against Auburn remaining, Spurrier didn’t want to talk this week about his legacy with a program that before he arrived was one of the league’s also-rans.

That’s because he still has goals to accomplish well beyond an SEC East title with the 17th ranked Gamecocks.

“That’s only half of the SEC. We’ll worry about the other half in three weeks,” Spurrier said.

Spurrier has long said his plan just wasn’t to win a title and walk away. He wants to make the Gamecocks a team to be reckoned with every year.

“I really wanted to come to South Carolina for one reason _ because South Carolina had not won much since 1969,” Spurrier said, referring to the team’s only league title, an Atlantic Coast Conference championship. “Everything was out there to do for the first time.”

Thanks to solid recruiting in the last few years, Spurrier should have chances to reach plenty of other goals. Fifteen of South Carolina’s 22 likely starters in Saturday’s game against Troy should be back next season.

That includes all the skill players on offense, including SEC leading receiver sophomore Alshon Jeffery, freshman Marcus Lattimore _ the SEC’s second leading rusher _ and quarterback Stephen Garcia.

“Sometimes we kind of catch ourselves at the end of the play looking to see what is going to happen,” center T.J. Johnson said.

Johnson is a sophomore anchoring a much improved offensive line that will return three starters. Half the defensive line should come back, along with the entire secondary.

“The reason we’ve been fortunate enough to win the East is the ability to recruit,” Spurrier said.

Lattimore appears to be the prize recruit of them all. Spurrier, who can be quite stingy with his praise, hasn’t stopped heaping compliments on the freshman.

“Without him running the ball, I don’t know what our record would be right now,” Spurrier said.

Lattimore has 964 rushing yards this year. With four more games to go, he is just 170 yards away from ending up third in yards for a season for the Gamecocks, only trailing George Rogers in 1979 and his Heisman Trophy year of 1980.

Johnson figures Lattimore will be in the Heisman Trophy discussion before the end of his Gamecocks career.

“We want Marcus to get as much recognition as he possibly can,” Johnson said. “Marcus makes us look, like I said, a lot better than we’ve been doing. We just want to get him as much recognition and get him as many yards as possible.”

And when teams start keying on Lattimore, it eases the pressure on Jeffery, who has emerged as one of the best receivers in the SEC.

Jeffery has 1,087 yards receiving this season, just 56 yards behind Sidney Rice’s season record set in 2005. In just 23 games, the sophomore trails South Carolina’s career receiving mark by less than 1,000 yards.

“Those guys are fantastic players,” offensive lineman Hutch Eckerson said. “They make everybody look good.”

Having talented players at two positions gives opposing coaches fits. Troy defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell knows what will happens if his team tries too hard to stop Lattimore.

“You’ve got to decide who you’re going to commit and stop,” Rowell said. “Are you going to deal with him or deal with those big wideouts out there?”

Along with a first SEC East title, South Carolina also can make some other history. At 7-3 with four games left to go, the Gamecocks could tie or break the school record for wins in a season at 10 set in 1984. They have won nine games in a season in just one other year, 2001.

The Gamecocks also have assured a seventh season in a row without a losing record, matching a streak from 1928 to 1934. Spurrier still isn’t ready to declare that his project to change the losing culture at South Carolina is complete.

“We don’t know for sure,” Spurrier said. “We’ll do our best to try to maintain whatever we have going when the season has ended. But as we all know, you’re usually about as good as your last game.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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