COLUMBIA -- Still 10 days away from facing No. 1 Alabama, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier didn't allow doubt to linger about who his starting quarterback would be against the Crimson Tide.
Junior Stephen Garcia is the guy, fumbles and all.
"Yeah, we plan on him starting against Alabama," Spurrier said Tuesday after practice. "He actually played three quarters pretty well, and obviously the two fumbles were really bad plays.
"Now, can he stop fumbling? We're going to give him a chance to stop fumbling. But he hasn't thrown a lot of picks this year. Other than the fumbles, he's played pretty decently."
The fumbles Spurrier referred to, of course, were Garcia's two fourth- quarter turnovers in the eight-point loss at Auburn. Both fumbles, amid heavy contact, led to Tigers touchdowns.
That led Spurrier to go with Connor Shaw, even though it was the freshman's first SEC action. Shaw led promising drives into Auburn territory, but each ended in an interception.
Spurrier has said Shaw will play against the Tide, as well.
On Sunday, Spurrier spoke openly about Garcia needing to adjust his running style. He said, correctly, that Garcia lowers his head at the point of contact -- something that opens him up to serious head, neck and back injuries. And it increases the likelihood of a fumble.
"He's going to try not to do that. He tells me he can play without doing that," Spurrier said. "He must do that or we're going to take him out before he injures himself. Heck, I'm afraid they're going to sue me if we let him play like that. That's a terrible way to play football. You can't play like that."
Through four games, Garcia is fourth among SEC quarterbacks with a 161.6 passer rating.
He's currently 56 for 81 for 743 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions. Granted, that's fewer passes than many of the league's quarterbacks have thrown, but it's still a 69 percent completion percentage, well above the 55 percent where he was stuck a year ago.
Spurrier has credited, and did again, Garcia's running ability. He said Garcia just needs to know when to meet the turf -- and not a defender.
"We ask him to get on the ground," Spurrier said. "We don't ask him to take on tacklers. We don't ask our quarterbacks to take on tacklers. We ask them to get on the ground."
Garcia wasn't made available Tuesday. There's an outside chance he'll speak today with reporters.
Despite being generally positive about his quarterback, which isn't always the case, Spurrier was particularly down Tuesday in talking about the offensive line. Like Furman the week before, he said the line didn't effectively protect the passer.
He said Garcia and Shaw did a good job of making something happen when they did, given the lack of time each had in the pocket.
Tackles Kyle Nunn and Hutch Eckerson, guard Rokevious Watkins and center T.J. Johnson will be limited some this week in practice because of injuries. That's concerning considering there's little to no depth at several of those positions.
"We're stuck with what we've got," Spurrier said.
Where does the O-line, a major concern coming into the season, go from here?
"I don't have an answer. You need to ask coach (Shawn) Elliott on that," Spurrier said. "Maybe we just can't block guys well enough to allow our quarterbacks to stand back there for a long time. That's why we've got to run it and mix it up."
Frustrated, Spurrier commended Auburn's ability to block South Carolina -- even though the Tigers were lamenting their own line's problems a week ago.
"I don't know who their line coach is," Spurrier said, later told it was Jeff Grimes, "but he's a hell of a coach."
Spurrier extended that vent to the team seemingly not taking Saturday's loss seriously enough.
"When losing begins to hurt these guys as much as it hurts some of us, we'll have a good team here at South Carolina," Spurrier said. "But I'm not convinced losing hurts these guys. Or else they'd play better. They'd play their assignments. They're either not smart enough to play or losing doesn't hurt."
While the Gamecocks are healing up, on and off the field, Alabama is getting ready to play Florida. South Carolina is the first of five consecutive opponents to play the Tide with an off week preceding the game.
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