South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier applauds during warm-ups in Columbia. (AP File Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
KNOXVILLE — Steve Spurrier became Tennessee's arch-nemesis during his days as Florida's coach in the 1990s.
More than a decade after he coached his final game for the Gators, Spurrier continues to torment the Volunteers.
Since South Carolina hired Spurrier in 2005 following his unsuccessful stint in the NFL, the Gamecocks have won five of the past eight meetings with Tennessee.
To put that number in perspective, South Carolina has only seven wins all-time in the series.
Willie Martinez, now Tennessee's secondary coach, won four of the five meetings against Spurrier and the Gamecocks as Georgia's defensive coordinator 2005-09, and neither team scored more than 20 points in four of those games.
"We always had great games, and I've had always had tremendous respect for Coach," Martinez said following the Vols' practice on Wednesday. "He's always done a great job, and the great thing about going up against Coach and his teams is they're going to be well-coached. They know what to do based off what the defense is doing."
Asked about Tennessee left tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson's matchup with Jadeveon Clowney, his star defensive end, during Wednesday's SEC coaches' teleconference, Spurrier said he's not watched much of the Vols' offense.
In typical Spurrier fashion, he was "trying to find some ball plays" to run on Tennessee's defense.
He's found plenty of them over the years in compiling a 14-8 record against the Vols, and his ninth South Carolina team, which appears as good as the 11-win teams from the past two seasons, is looking for its fourth straight win against the Vols.
"It's more about the players than it is the coach," Martinez said. "You have a tremendous amount of respect for coaches, and obviously his record speaks for itself. But we really focus and concentrate on the players that we've got to defend, and that's really the most important thing.
"They've had players throughout the years, back when we played them, and he has them again. Any time you have a really good running back, a really good quarterback, and really good receivers, you have a chance to be very successful on offense. They've had that."
Tennessee tailback Marlin Lane practiced in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday, and though the junior isn't 100 percent healthy with a foot injury, he's expected to play on Saturday.
"It's great to get him back," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "Obviously we're prepared, the guys are prepared to get the reps if Marlin can't go, but he's had a great week of practice. I think [head trainer] Jason [McVeigh] and the entire medical staff have done a great job just helping us understand how many reps he needs to get in practice.
"The biggest thing is he's gotten a lot of mental reps the last two weeks. Having the bye week came at the right time, so he's ready to go full speed on Saturday."
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who threw 13 interceptions in 2011 and 2012, is one of two quarterbacks among the top 114 players in the country in passing efficiency yet to throw an interception this season.
(The other is Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who carved up the Vols for 456 yards and four touchdowns in September.)
Tennessee's 11 interceptions this season are second in the SEC only to Missouri's 13 picks, and the opportunistic Vols hope to snap Shaw's error-free streak.
"We know that and we're well aware of it," Martinez said. "It's because of his experience. He protects the ball, and he does a great job. He knows the offense very well, he knows where the weaknesses and the strengths are of the defense and a lot of times you watch him in a game where he makes really good decisions. That's why he's playing so well."
Freshman receiver Josh Smith didn't not practice on Wednesday. He walked around Haslam Field with a limp during the early part of practice. ... Quarterback Nathan Peterman, who still has a hard cast on his right hand, did some conditioning work with two strength coaches in the indoor complex during practice. ... Vols coach Butch Jones said on his weekly radio show receiver Devrin Young (hand) and defensive tackle Trevarris Saulsberry (knee) are game-time decisions for Saturday.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...
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