Garcia, Gamecocks reach critical juncture

After an inconsistent spring, QB heads into the summer with questions to answer

jperson@thestate.comApril 11, 2010 

USC quarterback Stephen Garcia throws a pass in the first period during the Garnet and Black Spring game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

Steve Spurrier called off South Carolina's spring game after three quarters Saturday, but questions surrounding his starting quarterback will linger into the summer.

Entering his fourth year in the program and coming off a season when he threw for more yards than all but one SEC quarterback, Stephen Garcia should have been in a position to work on a few minor things this spring and watch the backups duke it out for the No. 2 job.

That was not the case.

Garcia's errant passes and undisciplined style caused Spurrier to point out several times the quarterbacks were competing for the starting job. Spurrier reiterated his concerns this week in an interview with ESPN.com in which he questioned Garcia's commitment level.

The words stung Garcia.

"I'm not going to lie, I was pretty upset about it," Garcia said. "I'm just going to have to use that as motivation and try to prove him wrong."

Despite a spring game set up to favor the offenses - no blitzing and limited coverages - Garcia did not exactly light up Williams-Brice Stadium. Garcia's first pass attempt slipped out of his hand, and he fired several balls that Spurrier said were "too hot to handle."

He completed 8-of-15 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown to help lead the White squad to a 21-17 win. Garcia was intercepted once on a pass that went through the hands of receiver DeMario Bennett.

The day was a microcosm of Garcia's inconsistent spring. The redshirt sophomore wore a camera strapped to his helmet one practice so coaches could see where he was looking on his throws.

Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus also worked on Garcia's throwing motion, specifically the position of his head and shoulders during his delivery.

"We keep thinking Stephen is going to really get better. And something happens to him and he performs pretty similarly, it seems like, all the time," Spurrier said. "But he's got all summer to see if he can really try to iron out some things. ... We're trying to work on his form. But maybe we can't change his form, I don't know."

Garcia and freshman Connor Shaw, who started for the Garnet, both led first-half touchdown drives.

Shaw completed all four of his passes during a 59-yard drive that culminated with 14-yard touchdown strike to tight end Patrick DiMarco. Garcia answered by completing 5-of-7 passes on the ensuing, 70-yard drive, which he capped with a 2-yard scoring toss to tight end Justice Cunningham.

Freshman Andrew Clifford posted the best numbers among the quarterbacks, completing 8-of-11 passes for 100 yards.

Though he has been on campus only four months after graduating early from high school, Shaw said his goal is to start.

"I think that's any quarterback's goal is to be the man out there," Shaw said. "We have good enough quarterbacks here to push everybody."

Spurrier said Shaw "looks like a true freshman right now," but believes he and Clifford will work to improve this summer.

Garcia plans to do the same.

When asked whether Garcia's commitment level had improved during his time at USC, Spurrier told a reporter to pose the question to Garcia.

Garcia said he "definitely" is more committed than when he first arrived, but conceded he can do better.

"There's always more time that I can put into it, and I'll be the first to admit that," he said. "I'm just going to try to learn from what (Spurrier) said and try to change his mind. Nobody's going to be able to do that except me."

Coach Spurrier's comments

Garcia's comments

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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