HOOVER, Ala. — When he took to the podium, Steve Spurrier proclaimed himself ready for "talkin' season" — and then proved it.
The shots were more subtle Tuesday than sometimes. Otherwise, the Ol' Ball Coach was his usual self at SEC Media Days. In a half-hour interview session to kick off the event's second day, the South Carolina coach riffed on a variety of topics, tossing off light-hearted barbs on everything from Nick Saban and Alabama recruiting to his two-year stint as an NFL coach.
Rarely shy with his opinions, Spurrier made a ripple last month by needling Alabama coach Nick Saban for — get this — underachieving.
"How many SEC titles has he won there in eight years? He's won two," Spurrier told The State of Columbia, S.C. "He's won three nationals, but he's only won two SECs in eight years. Now, if you had the No. 1 recruiting class every year and so forth, I don't know if he has maxed out potentially as well as he could."
Asked Tuesday about those comments, Spurrier didn't quite back away. He noted Alabama's consistent spot over the last few years atop the national recruiting rankings, which he said "has got to make (Saban) the greatest recruiter in the history of college football."
He added: "Arguably, they've got the greatest collection of football players ever assembled for a college team — if the recruiting services are correct, and they're pretty much correct. So they're the favorites … there's no question about that. As long as they can recruit like that, they're always gonna be the favorites.
"I guess, fortunately, sometimes the team that plays the best is the team that wins instead of maybe who all has the best players."
In 10 years at South Carolina, Spurrier has turned a middling program — he termed the school's football tradition historically "mediocre" and said there was "nowhere to go but up" — into a burgeoning SEC power. Spurrier didn't shoot down the idea that the Gamecocks should be the preseason favorites in the SEC East but noted their fans "realize there's more to life than winning the SEC championship," saying they'd rather beat Clemson — which they've done five consecutive years — than win the SEC.
"That is how big it is to them, that one game," he said. "Personally, I'd rather win the SEC. I don't mind saying that. That's the bigger trophy."
Spurrier said he'd spoken briefly with former Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia, who was in and out of Spurrier's doghouse during his playing career and is covering SEC Media Days for the SEC-themed website SaturdayDownSouth.com. But the coach couldn't resist:
"He's got long hair now," he said. "It looks like he joined Duck Dynasty, not the media."
Before praising Texas A&M, the Gamecocks' opponent in the season opener, Spurrier bemoaned the end of the Aggies' rivalry with Texas.
"I think it's a shame … I don't mind saying that," he said. "Two schools that have been playing for over a hundred years, just because one of them joins another conference, get mad at each other: 'We're not playing you anymore.' So I don't know. I think it's sad. … The fans want to see that, to me. They want to see you beat the guys next door, the neighbors."
Then, while noting A&M's recent recruiting hauls, he added:
"Kevin Sumlin has an excellent record as a coach. He's a good negotiator, we know that" — a reference to Sumlin's contract, worth $5 million annually.
Spurrier also talked of the importance of cultivating wealthy donors. He said he hosts a dinner party for several at his home each preseason, and noted that South Carolina has increased exponentially its base of donors who give at least $1 million. He also said that one booster "took me to the Bahamas on his jet airplane, on his yacht, pretty good trip."
"I told him, 'You're sort of like the owner of our team,' " Spurrier continued. "The big donors in college are similar to like an owner in the NFL, because they put the money up.
"The best part of it, they don't tell us what to do, though. They're sort of the owners from a distance. They don't tell you who to play, what plays to call, so forth."
Spurrier thanked a reporter who noted he would become the first person to coach 10 years at two different SEC football programs, and said it wasn't part of a grand plan. After winning seven SEC championships and one national title at Florida, he lasted just two years with the Washington Redskins.
"Obviously, you never know what your path in life is going to lead to. When I left Florida after 12 years, I thought I was gonna coach in the NFL five or six years and retire to the beach and play golf a bunch and travel around — this, that and the other.
"That was a bad plan. It was. Later you found out, that was not a real good idea."
Two years later, Spurrier returned to college coaching at South Carolina, where he described the building process as fun, and then noted that the Gamecocks' current recruiting class was recently ranked No. 2 nationally by one service.
"Of course," he said, "Alabama is No. 1."
GALLERY: HIGHLIGHTS FROM SEC MEDIA DAYS