After some extended stays in coach Steve Spurrier's doghouse, the Ball Coach insists 23-year-old fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has changed his ways and matured. What's gone into the new Stephen, and will that translate to additional success for a team that enters the 2011 season with heightened expectations?
When coach Spurrier talks about "lifestyle changes" with you, what does he mean? What has changed since your April suspension, the fifth since you have been at USC?
"It's a maturity thing. I'm focusing a lot more. That's what it comes down to. I'm just a lot more focused."
What has your off-season been like, since you've been back on campus? (He was partially reinstated in June, so he could work out with teammates.)
"The quarterbacks have had to run with these guys (referring to teammates Bruce Ellington, Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore), and it was pretty painful, trying to keep up with them. I lost a little bit of weight, much-needed weight I needed to lose. I think it was a pretty good summer workout, actually probably the best since I've been here."
Do you finally think the off-field attention of your career is over and you can move on to the business of football?
"Oh, I don't think that's going to happen. But, you know, I'm used to it. I've been dealing with it since my first month here, since I got here. I've developed some pretty think hide. I hope that it's passed, but if it's not it's not."
Why should South Carolina fans trust you at this point?
"They have to, I guess. (laughs) I'm asking them to. Hopefully they take me back one more time."
Have you grown more as a player or person in the past five years?
"I would say all of the above. I've learned a lot since I've been here. Coming in here, I didn't think it would be this much of a fishbowl, as I guess you could say. I learned the hard way, which I've tended to do over the course of my life. I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. It's made me who I am today. You only live once."