It only took watching one practice for Stephen Garcia to realize how much different South Carolina’s football team is now compared with when he played for Steve Spurrier.
“The amount of organization that is there compared to when I was playing, it’s night and day,” Garcia said. “There is no stone left unturned. There are 13 periods, and it’s boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.”
Periods are the increments, usually five minutes each, that measure South Carolina’s practice, helping coaches know when to move from one drill to the next. Under Steve Spurrier, the Gamecocks did not have practice periods, relying mostly on Spurrier’s gut, Garcia said.
“I think there are advantages to both systems,” said Garcia. “Obviously, we did well with Coach Spurrier’s system, but the organization was a lot different.”
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Garcia played for Spurrier from 2008 to 2011 and is South Carolina’s third-leading all-time passer with 7,597 yards. He has been able to watch his former team practice twice this week as the Gamecocks are in his hometown to prepare for Monday’s Outback Bowl against Michigan.
What Spurrier’s team lacked in practice organization, they made up for in offensive production, which is something that has escaped South Carolina under Muschamp. The Gamecocks fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper earlier this month and are giving wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon a chance to audition for that job by calling plays in the Outback Bowl.
Garcia talked to Muschamp this week about what he’s looking for from his next offensive coordinator.
“I talked to Muschamp, and he said he really wants an up-tempo offense,” Garcia said. “He’s got to have that in the repertoire. He was talking about Auburn and their offensive line and how they are leading the SEC in rushing because they are up-tempo and they scheme the heck out of you. It’s a lot of work, there’s no question. I think Coach Spurrier’s secret sauce is that he was around football for so long that he just knew what teams were going to be playing to try to attack us.”
As a former player, Garcia is hoping Muschamp will hire a play-caller who doesn’t hesitate to consult with his players.
“I want to be able to call that guy at any time and say, ‘Hey, I don’t like this play, I don’t feel comfortable, what can we do to fix it? How do we come together and meet in the middle?’ Somebody who is going to listen to the quarterback and the running backs and receivers and try to take as much information as possible and use that with the information you have,” Garcia said. “That’s what made Coach Spurrier so awesome. He asked me what I was comfortable with. Granted it was usually two hours before the game, not really during practice.”
Garcia doesn’t know McClendon but did say that assistant coach Bobby Bentley, who has been moved from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach for the bowl game, was very involved in the offensive preparation during the first practice he watched.
“Coach Bentley has definitely taken a higher role as well with kind of getting the quarterbacks and receivers lined up the right way,” Muschamp said.
That could be a boost for South Carolina starting quarterback Jake Bentley, Bobby Bentley’s son. Garcia and Jake Bentley have talked football several times, Garcia said.
“I like him a lot. He’s a good dude,” Garcia said. “We talked about Michigan and what they looked like on tape and everything. He’s a student of the game. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to watch film. He knows how to dissect a defense. I think he’s got a legit chance. We were talking about the height of (Michigan’s) corners like, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ ”
Which is what every South Carolina fan wants to ask Muschamp about his offense.
Who: South Carolina (8-4) vs. Michigan (8-4)
When: Noon Monday
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Line: Michigan by 8