What's wrong, Garcia? South Carolina ranked No. 10 despite QB regression
COLUMBIA -- Stephen Garcia is like a veteran pitcher struggling to find location. The puzzling loss of command has lasted a month, not quite masked by South Carolina's 4-0 record and No. 10 ranking in The Associated Press poll.
The redshirt senior quarterback has thrown seven interceptions -- four Saturday night in a 21-3 victory over Vanderbilt -- and three touchdown passes.
"We're trying to get Stephen in position where he can play a little bit better," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "As coaches, we have a lot of coaching to do this week."
Thankfully for South Carolina, Auburn (3-1) will arrive at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday with a riddled defense that has allowed 31 points per game.
But few people saw this Garcia regression coming.
He is ninth in the SEC in pass efficiency (110.9) after finishing fifth (148.7) in the category as a junior. Only current NFL quarterbacks Cam Newton, Greg McElroy and Ryan Mallet, plus Georgia's Aaron Murray, ranked ahead of Garcia in 2010.
Garcia threw 20 touchdown passes last season with 14 interceptions.
If you didn't know better, you might suspect he is playing hurt.
No, Spurrier said.
"He's as healthy as he's always been, if that's what you mean," Spurrier said.
Too impatient while scanning the field?
"We do wish he would be a little bit more calm in the pocket and look downfield and not see the rush," Spurrier said. "That's something we've been working with him for four years on, trying to get his eyes downfield better."
For the second straight game, All-American candidate Alshon Jeffery caught only two passes.
"I don't know about Alshon but if I was a receiver, I'd be a little frustrated too," Spurrier said.
"All of our receivers, they like to catch touchdowns. They like to catch passes. But it's not happening. So we'll keep working. We throw all week in practice. I wish I could say we hit everything in practice, but we don't."
Spurrier repeated that it's "unlikely" that sophomore Connor Shaw will take over for Garcia as the starter. Shaw made Spurrier wince late in the Vanderbilt game when he missed tight end Justice Cunningham on a splendidly designed crossing route.
"When you can't hit that one you think maybe we should have just run the ball up the middle for no gain," Spurrier said.
Damiere Byrd, the speedy freshman receiver who served an NCAA suspension for the first four games this season, will be in uniform Saturday.
"And he will play," Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks came out of the game relatively healthy and with no new injuries.