Morris: Spurrier aims to have Plan B at QB

April 10, 2010 

USC head coach Steve Spurrier watches as quarterback Stephen Garcia makes an incomplete pass during the Garnet and Black Spring game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Columbia, S.C. Photo by C. Aluka Berry - The State Media Company. caberry@thestate.com

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

STEVE SPURRIER DOES not want another season where Stephen Garcia is his only option as South Carolina's quarterback. Spurrier did not particularly care for having his hands tied a season ago when Garcia went the distance, never having to glance over his shoulder at the competition or find a seat on the sideline.

Spurrier always has cottoned to the idea of having a second option with his quarterbacks. He wants a capable backup if for no other reason than to serve as a threat to the starter. One of his primary teaching tools with quarterbacks long has been: Play smart and efficiently or find a seat on the bench.

Thus, Spurrier made it abundantly clear at the conclusion of the disastrous Papajohns.com Bowl that he would not go into this season with only one quarterback at his disposal.

It was no secret this spring that Spurrier wanted improvement from Garcia. Then he wanted a strong enough showing by freshman Connor Shaw to make things interesting when fall practice begins.

Garcia obviously did not make the kind of strides in the spring Spurrier sought because, when asked if a backup was found in the spring, Spurrier bowed up a little.

"A backup?" Spurrier said. "We're looking for a guy who can carry us all the way through. I'm hoping Stephen Garcia will have a big summer of getting committed to really learning how to play. ... We've got to get Stephen ready to play.

"I never said we were looking for backups. We're looking for our best players at all positions. Stephen should be our best player, but sometimes he doesn't completely act like it or perform like it."

Garcia, despite having 16 starts the past two seasons, continues to do things that "drive you crazy," according to Spurrier. He mentioned the end of the first half of Saturday's Garnet and Black game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Garcia returned to the game for the specific purpose of running the two-minute offense with 1:29 to go. On the first play, Garcia took a sack instead of finding a secondary receiver or throwing the ball away.

"You keep thinking he can learn to do those things, but it's a slow process with Stephen," Spurrier said. "But he's got a lot of time, a lot of time to see if he can get it going."

It was the kind of play Spurrier could do nothing about a season ago.

"No, we didn't have that option last year," Spurrier said of calling someone off the bench. "We just had to live with what Stephen did."

Shaw emerged this spring as the top candidate to give Spurrier another option in the fall. The other candidates were Aramis Hillary, who left the program, and junior Zac Brindise, who has not taken a snap under center in three years at USC.

Shaw got a head start when he skipped the final semester of his senior year at Flowery Branch (Ga.) High and entered USC in January. He was considered a three-star prospect coming out of high school and selected USC over offers from Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Stanford, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

Spurrier likes Shaw's work ethic but knows six weeks of training is not enough time to begin facing SEC defenses. To believe Shaw will push Garcia for the starting job is a reach. But to believe he can be groomed by September to be Garcia's backup is realistic.

That really is what Spurrier wants. At Duke, at Florida and through his first four seasons at USC, Spurrier could pull the trigger on changing quarterbacks at a whim.

Garcia was the fourth quarterback to start every game throughout a season under Spurrier in his 20 seasons as a college head coach. Anthony Dilweg started all 11 games for Duke in 1988, Shane Matthews did it each of three seasons for Florida from 1990 through 1992 and Danny Wuerffel did it in Florida's national championship season of 1996.

Except for maybe Dilweg, Matthews and Wuerffel had something Garcia did not - a second-string quarterback capable of pushing him out of the starting job. Spurrier said he warned Matthews in 1992 that if his play did not improve, Terry Dean was ready to play.

Even Wuerffel, who won the Heisman Trophy in leading Florida to the '96 national championship, got benched. In fact, Spurrier benched Wuerffel in the opening game that season against Southwestern Louisiana.

There was one other difference between those quarterbacks and Garcia.

"Those guys were all good players," Spurrier said. "They played like we asked them to play. They all stayed in the pocket and made throws."

Spurrier said he still believes Garcia can get to that point. But Spurrier sure would like to have someone ready in the bullpen if Garcia falters next season.

Coach Spurrier's comments

Garcia's comments

Watch commentaries by Morris Mondays at 6 and 11 p.m. on ABC Columbia News (WOLO-TV).

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