Steve Spurrier knows he made a mistake last December when he said he'd only coach two or three more years. He paid for it on National Signing Day, and no one has forgotten it to this day.
Of course him being Spurrier, he tries to own the issue. After coming to the podium 25 years after his first SEC Media Days appearance, he joked that he saw a lot of familiar faces and figured some of them would be retired by now. It's PR 101 from one of the least guarded guys in the business: get out in front of an issue before others take it to you.
Spurrier did have one of his standard quips at the expense of other teams, noting that Arkansas and Tennessee are very happy with the same 7-6 record his team had last year. He also took his annual poke at Nick Saban, speculating that some NFL team might throw $20 million at him to make his current pay from Alabama look small.
But beyond waving off the cost of attendance factor as no big deal in recruiting and reaffirming his age old rule of dismissing any player that hits a woman, this was the presser where Spurrier spent as much time talking about his age as anything. After his line about the sportswriters, he tried to focus on the players he brought with him and touted the record of new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke. It didn't work. Before he even began, Paul Finebaum told SEC Network viewers that he thought this would be Spurrier's last time at media days. The reporters in attendance pressed him on how much time he has left as a coach as well.
He came prepared to fight off those kinds of questions, of course. When asked about hanging up his visor, he responded, "That retirement thing, I don't think I'd be very good at it." He also pointed to three people only one year his younger—presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, plus Coach K at Duke—are doing just fine. He also said someone recently told him that he's the youngest SEC coach to win four straight bowl games. He even asked for an oddsmaker to put out lines for how many current SEC coaches will still be around four years from now.
When not talking about his age, he did nothing to try to tamp down expectations. If anything, he seemed to want to raise them. He said he didn't "think we're too far away from returning" to being a top 10 team, and after pointing out that no one was predicting his team to win the SEC, he said that "stranger things have happened". While talking up Hoke, he pointed to Arkansas as a team whose defense improved greatly in just one year. And while he hasn't picked a starting quarterback yet, he was quick to point out that the rulebook doesn't disallow him from trying to win with two of them playing regularly.
The session was at once classic Spurrier and a different kind of Spurrier. He doesn't lack for confidence or one-liners, but after coming down from three straight years of 11-win seasons, he clearly feels like the underdog again. Wanting to feel that is part of why he chose South Carolina in the first place, and he's at that point again now. Not only is no one picking his team to win anything, but people are picking him to run out of gas as a coach sooner than later.
If nothing else, that will keep him coaching a few more years beyond this one. The doubt of others is the fuel that makes his internal fires burn, and they're clearly burning brightly.