All eyes on the QBs
COLUMBIA -- Stephen Garcia didn't have to look over his shoulder last year. The job as South Carolina quarterback was all his.
Now, though, it's as if the coaching staff is putting a mirror in front of him, just so Garcia knows where freshman Connor Shaw is in relation to his heels.
In other words, don't be surprised if Steve Spurrier is back to a two-quarterback rotation by the time the season arrives.
"We will have two ready to play next year. We will have two ready to play," Spurrier said, without being specifically asked about a platoon. "We will play two -- if the first guy doesn't play the way the coaches ask him to play.
"If it's left guard or safety, or wherever, you've got to demand your players play the way we coach them to play."
Even if Garcia didn't execute well a year ago, there simply wasn't enough confidence in redshirt freshman Reid McCollum.
But there already seems to be a different feeling about Shaw, the even-keeled workaholic who just arrived in January.
Shaw has been through a total of five practices, including Saturday's scrimmage inside Williams-Brice Stadium -- the first of three spring scrimmages, including the April 10 Garnet and Black Game.
Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman-winning QB at Florida, has already seen enough to know Shaw can play.
"Connor, he can throw on the run, can throw in the pocket," Spurrier said. "He's a natural passer, he really is."
Shaw was 8-for-13 for 110 yards Saturday, with a 25-yard touchdown to Dion LeCorn. Late in the day, D.L. Moore dropped what would've been a 30-yard touchdown from Shaw.
"That was as good of a post route as we'd thrown in a long time around here," Spurrier said of the pass, which dropped in, in the end zone, over two defensive backs.
At 6-feet tall -- not exactly the prototypical quarterback height -- Shaw says he's had to learn how to run, too. He's adapted to the position. He's a natural fit for the modified read-option package that offensive line coach Shawn Elliott brought with him from Appalachian State.
Praise from the Ball Coach aside, it's still Garcia's gig.
He was 6-for-15 for 88 yards and a touchdown Saturday. He had one interception, deflected at the line into the arms of JUCO linebacker Qua Gilchrist. (Gilchrist, whom the coaches are looking toward to help replace Eric Norwood, returned it for a score).
In reality, Spurrier doesn't want Shaw to play as a freshman. He'd rather Garcia, a fourth-year junior, be the man under center.
But he wants Garcia to know he's got company for the spot.
"We've been trying to push Stephen ever since he's been here," Spurrier said. "We're still trying to push him."
Garcia's settling in as a veteran leader on an experienced team. A lot of SEC fans are surprised to learn he led the league in total offense this past season (in SEC games).
"I feel like a veteran, but I've still got two years left," Garcia said. "I've been here four years now. It's about time that I figure it out."
Garcia threw for 2,862 yards and 17 TDs (10 interceptions) last season in his first year as the unquestioned starter.
Shaw -- the brother of a college quarterback (Georgia Southern's Jaybo) and son of a high school football coach -- enters the scene with the look of a ballplayer.
Upon arrival, Spurrier called Shaw a "football junkie."
After a shaky first practice on a cold afternoon earlier in the month, Shaw said the jitters were gone by this past week.
"This is why I came in (early)," Shaw said. "I wanted to get this spring experience. My goal is just to compete.
"I feel like all the quarterbacks have a chance during the spring to prove themselves. That's my goal."
--Sophomore Jarvis Giles broke off an early 50-yard run and led all backs with 82 yards and a score. Giles needed to bulk up in the off-season, Spurrier had said. He weighs a sturdier 189 now and wants to get to 195.
--LeCorn finally looks healthy again, just shy of a year since he broke his leg in the 2009 spring game. Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. has said LeCorn is easily his best and toughest blocker.
--T.J. Johnson, transitioning from guard to center, had a poor first snap of the day but settled in thereafter. Spurrier said he's improving as he learns.
--Spurrier was high on a pair of Lowcountry receivers, former walk-on Stephen Flint (Wando) and walk-on Kevin White (Fort Dorchester). Flint caught a pair of passes, including a nifty sideline grab, for 31 yards. White's only catch was a 10-yard TD.
--The Gamecocks went no-huddle several times Saturday, and they have in some of their early practices, as well. Spurrier said much of that philosophy is courtesy Elliott, who ran it some at App State.