Quarterback quandary for USC? Spurrier says competition has made Garcia, Shaw better
Stephen Garcia has started 28 consecutive games at quarterback for South Carolina.
His 29th straight start, which would come this Saturday against East Carolina, may be in doubt.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said he won't name a starter until later this week for the Gamecocks' season opener Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
It's more than just gamesmanship on the part of the Head Ball Coach. Garcia, who has a legitimate shot at breaking just about every major career passing mark in the school's history, is being challenged in practice by sophomore Connor Shaw.
Spurrier said both Garcia and Shaw will play against the Pirates. What he won't say is who will start.
"We plan on playing both quarterbacks in the game," Spurrier said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. "Everyone wants to know who'll start. We'll announce that later in the week. It's not a big deal who'll start. Connor's had a very good preseason. His scrimmages have been better than Stephen's.
"They're both improved. Competing against each other has made both of them better. We'll see how the season plays out."
Playing two quarterbacks is nothing new for Spurrier. Four times in the nine seasons that Spurrier led either Duke or Florida to a conference title, he platooned two quarterbacks. The last time was in 2000 when Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman shared the quarterbacking duties for the Gators. The formula worked. Florida finished with an 8-1 mark in the SEC, beat Auburn in the SEC title game and earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
Garcia's struggles in the Gamecocks' final two games of the 2010 season -- the SEC title game against Auburn and in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Florida State -- prompted Spurrier to open up the competition in the offseason.
"His performance was not good enough in my opinion for us to say he's our quarterback next year," Spurrier said. "In my opinion, I said we need some competition in there. We're still having that. They both have earned the right to play this game. It's based on performance."
Spurrier stressed that Garcia's off-the-field issues, which have included five separate suspensions since his arrival on campus in 2007, had nothing to with his decision to open the competition.
"We have forgiven Stephen for his transgressions," Spurrier said. "He's a new person, he really is. It's all history. We're starting fresh. It's based on performance from here on out."
Spurrier, normally hard on his quarterbacks, said he's pleased with the progress of Garcia and Shaw.
"I'm really impressed with both of these guys. We've gotten to the point that our passing game will be improved," Spurrier said. "I've had several years here in practice where our quarterbacks couldn't throw it against the air with no defenders out there. The ball would be all over the place, mostly hitting the ground. And now we have a pretty good idea of where the ball is going. The timing of the quarterbacks is much better than it has been in the past."
Last week, Garcia shrugged off any suggestions about there being a quarterback contro-versy, saying, "It is what it is."
Third-string QB Andrew Clifford was involved in a single vehicle accident earlier this week. Clifford was riding his moped after picking up a pizza early Monday morning and lost control of his scooter, falling on his head. He was not wearing a helmet.
"I think someone saw him unconscious and took him to the hospital," Spurrier said. "He had some stitches in his head and he had a concussion. So, he's out for two or three weeks. He's OK, but hopefully that's a lesson for all our guys driving scooters."