COLUMBIA -- The quarterback who didn't throw a pass Saturday for South Carolina is the one who dominated conversations before, during and after the Gamecocks' spring game.
From all accounts, suspended senior Stephen Garcia didn't attend the 21-17 Garnet win against the Black team in front of about 30,000 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium. But that didn't prevent his name from being very, very popular amongst those in attendance -- and even those on the sideline.
"Stephen Garcia, his fate will not be determined probably anytime soon," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said, addressing the situation before he was even asked about it. "We'll see how all that plays out here in the next maybe three or four weeks. I'm not sure."
Garcia was suspended in- definitely on Wednesday by USC athletic director Eric Hyman, after Garcia's behavior at a life-skills meeting was deemed inappropriate for a student-athlete. Multiple sources have confirmed that Garcia, disruptive during the event, later admitted to Spurrier he had been drinking before it began.
It's the fifth-year senior's fifth separate suspension -- and second this spring -- with each offense compounding the next.
Sources have said the Garcia family is currently weighing the next step. Among them, Garcia is considering an alcohol treatment program of some kind. Spurrier said Garcia, 23, is on pace to graduate in May.
"The best thing for Stephen is he needs to graduate," Spurrier said. "That's what he needs to do. He needs to graduate and keep all his options open and go from there."
Garcia could return to the team as a graduate student. He could transfer to an FCS school for his final year of eligibility. Or he could abandon football altogether in the interest of the bigger picture.
Spurrier was asked about the idea of rehabilitation for his troubled QB. "I can't really go into all of his personal issues," he said, "but we're hoping Stephen is right back here on campus, going to class and finishing up. We'll see what happens in the next two or three weeks."
In the meantime, as has been the case for the majority of the spring, sophomore Connor Shaw will continue to serve as the team's No. 1 quarterback. (USC has two practices scheduled this week.)
Shaw was named the spring's most improved QB, even though he clearly still has room for growth. The Atlanta-area native was 17 for 27 for 176 yards and a score Saturday, but he misfired several times to wide-open receivers.
Shaw missed Alshon Jeffery high and wide by 5 yards on the opening drive, on what would have been an easy 38-yard score on fourth down. Two of Shaw's first three drives got inside the 10-yard line, before bogging down and resulting in one missed 32-yard field goal and one made 22-yard kick.
"Connor had some errant plays," Spurrier said. "He just needs to play and play and play -- and learn. You've got to have a plan. You've got to have a plan for every play and execute it."
Spurrier was patient in his dissection of Shaw.
"He's had a good spring," Spurrier said. "When he takes his steps and throws it on time, he can zip it in there. He can make all the throws."
Shaw's one score was a 5-yard throw to DeAngelo Smith at the end of the half. The ball initially looked as if it would be intercepted until Smith physically fought in front of the defender.
"He just needs to take snap after snap after snap," Spurrier said. "We'll see if he can learn decision-making."
Shaw said he is approaching his job the same way, regardless of what's going on with Garcia.
"It doesn't matter if he's going to be on the field or off the field. I'm going to compete to the best of my ability," Shaw said. "If I'm called to be a starter or play, I'll be ready."
Shaw didn't play in the second half after he experienced some dehydration and cramping. That gave the other QBs some additional snaps.
Dylan Thompson threw a 62-yard touchdown to Smith on his first snap with the Garnet team, but even the redshirt freshman admitted it was an "answered prayer." The ball seemingly hung up for hours before corner Vic Hampton mistimed his jump and Smith came down with the ball and trotted into the end zone.
Thompson, as the No. 2, finished 6 for 13 for 168 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Andrew Clifford was 7 of 8 for 65 yards and an interception. Seth Strickland finished 6 of 8 for 80 yards, with a TD and an interception -- which was returned 34 yards for a touchdown.
"Our quarterbacks have got a lot to learn," Spurrier said. "They're not there yet. But we think they can get there. Connor needs to have a wonderful summer, if he is our quarterback."
For now, there are a lot of ifs when it comes to that discussion.
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