South Carolina’s quarterback competition has achieved its goal, coach Steve Spurrier said.
It has worked so well, in fact, that Spurrier wants to prolong it. The seventh-year coach of the No. 12 Gamecocks held his game-week news conference Tuesday, and the biggest announcement was that there would be no announcement regarding the starting quarterback.
“It’s not that big a deal who plays first,” Spurrier said. “They’ll both play probably a couple of possessions, two or three in the first half, and then we’ll go from there.”
Senior incumbent Stephen Garcia and sophomore Connor Shaw both have improved this preseason because of the competition, Spurrier said.
“I’ve really been impressed with both these guys,” he said. “I think they’ve improved to the point that our passing game will be improved.”
Both quarterbacks will continue to be judged once Saturday’s game against East Carolina begins, Spurrier said, and there aren’t many foes that are as quarterback-friendly as the Pirates, who gave up the most yards per game in the FBS last year.
“Sometimes I hear coaches say, ‘Well, he’s won the competition, he’s our quarterback for the year.’ I don’t know how you can do that,” Spurrier said. “I don’t know how you can say one guy is the quarterback for the year when you’ve got two that are pretty close and one of them is struggling. I don’t know how you tell the other guy he’s not going to have a chance. It would be very easy if one of them clearly outplayed the other, then (he) is going to play the next game.”
Garcia is third in school history with 6,753 passing yards and 43 passing touchdowns for his career. He is coming off his best season, a 3,059-yard campaign that featured career highs in touchdowns (20) and completion percentage (64.2), but his poor play in the final two games convinced Spurrier to open the competition this offseason.
Garcia was 35-for-62 with two touchdown passes and five interceptions in the final two games of 2010, a 56-17 loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game and a 26-17 defeat against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“His performance was not good enough, in my opinion, for us to say, ‘He’s our quarterback next year,’ ” Spurrier said. “In my opinion, we needed to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have some competition there,’ and that’s what we’re going to have. And we’re having it, and we’re still having it.”
Spurrier said Friday he would make the announcement early this week but now seems unsure when he will make his plans public.
“We planned to announce it early in the week; now we plan to announce it later in the week,” he said. “Whoever goes in there first, we may announce it Friday sometime when we get onto the bus or something.”
That Garcia was suspended twice this offseason — the second one occurred two weeks after he had vowed to avoid further trouble — will not be a factor in Spurrier’s decision, the coach said.
“It’s based on performance, not on Stephen’s transgressions,” Spurrier said. “We have forgiven him of his transgressions. He’s a new person, he really is. He’s doing things differently. That’s all history. We’re starting fresh, and it’s all based on performance from here on out.”
Shaw completed 23 of 33 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions last season in his first year out of Flowery Branch High School in Georgia.
Neither quarterback was made available to the media Tuesday.