Spurrier sticks to script: praises Shaw, challenges Garcia

jperson@thestate.comMay 10, 2010 

(Monday -- 04/12/2010 -- Columbia, S.C. --) - Head football coach Steve Spurrier and women's basketball coach Dawn Staley spoke with the Richland County Gamecock Club at Seawell's in Columbia, S.C., on Monday, April 12, 2010.

FILE PHOTO

ORANGEBURG - South Carolina coaches have given quarterback Stephen Garcia a training plan for the summer.

If Garcia chooses not to follow it, the Gamecocks have a contingency plan - freshman backup Connor Shaw.

Repeating the theme that has been as constant on this year's spring Gamecock Club circuit as the chicken dinners, USC coach Steve Spurrier challenged Garcia and praised Shaw on Monday at the Orangeburg meeting at The Cinema banquet facility.

Spurrier said Shaw has been a quick study since graduating high school early and enrolling at USC in January.

"Connor's one of these guys that tries to learn everything there is to learn. He's ready to play right now, and he's only been here three or four months," Spurrier said. "Some of our guys have been here two years and don't know anything."

Spurrier has made it clear he expects more this year from Garcia, a redshirt junior who was the SEC's second-leading passer in 2009 behind Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. Spurrier said Garcia took too many sacks - the 37 allowed by the Gamecocks tied LSU for most in the SEC - and failed to keep his focus every play.

But Spurrier's biggest push with Garcia is to get the right-hander to improve his commitment level.

Garcia has been at his parents' home in Lutz, Fla., since the semester ended. He has been working out at his former high school and will return to Columbia at the end of the month for the start of summer school and the team's voluntary passing drills.

"We're hoping Stephen Garcia will have a good summer," Spurrier said. "We give our guys a plan to follow through the summer. Hopefully this year, he'll follow it. He hasn't followed it very well other years."

But Spurrier is not putting all of the weight of the 2010 season on Garcia's shoulders. He mentioned three other areas in need of improvement: the offensive line, special teams and the ability to come up with defensive takeaways and scores.

Spurrier is working with his third offensive line coach in as many years after John Hunt was let go after four seasons and his replacement, Eric Wolford, left after one season to become the head coach at Youngstown State.

Camden native and former Appalachian State assistant Shawn Elliott will try to bolster a unit that has been a weak spot throughout Spurrier's USC tenure.

"We've been getting pushed around, shoved around ever since I've been here," Spurrier said. "We need to toughen up and get a little bit more physical on the offensive line, and hopefully we can do that this year."

Spurrier said three freshman linemen could compete for playing time this year: Florida natives Tramell Williams and Ronald Patrick and A.J. Cann from nearby Bamberg.

After pointing out that tailback Kenny Miles averaged 5 yards a carry in 2009, Spurrier said he expects Miles and incoming freshman Marcus Lattimore, a Parade All-American, to do the bulk of the running this season.

On other topics, Spurrier said:

- He does not believe the SEC will expand, although he thinks Notre Dame is a natural fit for the Big Ten.

- The Gamecocks have found a kickoff specialist in Carson-Newman transfer and Irmo native Joey Scribner-Howard. "He can kick it a long way. Now, sometimes he doesn't keep it in the ballpark."

- His team is in good academic standing and has fewer "quitters and flunk-out guys" than previous years.

Spurrier also encouraged fans to support the schools' other programs by showing up for games. That prompted a smile at the head table from women's basketball assistant Nikki McCray, who said the Gamecocks played the nation's 12th-toughest schedule last season - "and we're not done."

USC opens at home against Xavier, an Elite Eight team last season. The Gamecocks also have nonconference games against Stanford, which has been to the Final Four three of the past four years, and North Carolina at Myrtle Beach.

"We want to play these types of teams to get us where we want to go," McCray said. "We're not afraid to play them."

New assistant coach Orlando Early said the Gamecocks men, who have home games against Boston College and Clemson, are trying to schedule another game against a top-20 opponent.

Early, who was the head coach at Lousiana-Monroe for five years, said Darrin Horn has USC "on the verge of being a national-type program where people all over the country are talking about South Carolina basketball."

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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