COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's quarterback picture seems to get more muddled as the team's preseason camp continues. Two days, from one scrimmage to the next, had changed Steve Spurrier's view of the position he views more than any other.
Thursday, he at least liked one of his quarterbacks -- even if it was a freshman who hasn't taken a single snap in a game.
By Saturday, though, he wasn't a fan of any of them.
Not throwing on time had him all flustered after a closed, 80-play scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"Our quarterback play today was not very good," Spurrier said in his opening statement, prior to questions. "Our quarterbacks were very hesitant. They throw late. A guy breaks open, and they throw late and it gets knocked down. We've got to get better quarterback play. The receivers were running good routes. We've got to get the ball to them better."
The numbers, upon review later, worked to betray Spurrier's complaints. They weren't at all bad.
In the "passing scrimmage," as Spurrier labeled it, freshman Connor Shaw was 13-for-20 for 135 yards, with two touchdowns. Junior Stephen Garcia was 7-for-14 for 76 yards and a score.
"They were equally ineffective, put it like that," Spurrier said of the two quarterbacks thought to be fighting for the No. 1 job.
Walk-on Seth Strickland, again earning some praise from Spurrier, was 3 for 4 for 55 yards and a touchdown.
"Maybe I'll let him play a little bit more," Spurrier said.
Here are Thursday's numbers: Shaw was 5 for 8 for 111 yards and a score. Garcia, meahwhile, was 11 for 16 for 113 yards, with a TD and two interceptions.
There were no interceptions and more yards (and throws) Saturday, and yet the Ball Coach was in a mood. Watching several missed targets put him in quite a funk.
"Our guys, they won't throw the ball on time," Spurrier said. "They wait. They just wait. We'll work on it, work on it, work on it -- like we've been doing. Hopefully they can get the ball out of their hands a little quicker."
Neither Garcia nor Shaw was made available after Saturday's scrimmage.
Pressure didn't greatly impact the quarterbacks' decision-making, Spurrier said. He said protection was "OK. It wasn't great. It's never great. But it was OK."
That's improvement from eight days ago, when Garcia was sacked five times in a day that seemed to set the offensive line back.
New line coach Shawn Elliott, though, was downright sunny Friday as he talked about his group's progress during the course of just this week.
In particular, he credited freshman A.J. Cann and Ronald Patrick with taking a leap forward. Because of injuries, it's important that at least a couple of the newcomers are getting involved.
"They protected pretty well, for the most part," Elliott said of the line after Thursday's scrimmage. "I just think they're gaining confidence. I don't know if they'll play worth a flip come Sept. 2, but I see something. They're becoming confident."
Entering the week, it was unclear just how much Shaw was pushing Garcia. But Spurrier has worked to make it clear: This isn't lip service. He is really giving Shaw an extended look in this camp. Shaw was the first quarterback to play in Thursday's scrimmage. He threw more passes Saturday.
A question Saturday about the quarterback race sent Spurrier into a long rant.
"I don't have to really talk about that right now," he said. "We'll put out there who we think is the best guy that's ready to play. Right now, I don't know who that is.
"We need to get better. Our guys need to get better. I don't know what they're thinking about all night (before a practice). We encourage them to keep drawing up the ballplays, and they'll know where everybody is. I don't think they're doing it. We've got to reinforce them trying to learn their plays. They don't know where (the) X (receiver) is. (The) Z is over here. It's a challenge for me and (quarterbacks) coach (G.A.) Mangus. But we'll keep working with them and hopefully get them smarter."
There is time for Mangus and Spurrier to get the message home. But not much. The opener against Southern Miss is a week from Thursday, on Sept. 2.
"Hopefully they understand that's not good enough," Spurrier said. "Maybe we can beat some of those down-the-line teams, but we're not going to beat very good teams unless our quarterback play is solid.
"It doesn't have to be super; it just has to be solid. That's why we practice. We're still 10 or so days from a real game. Maybe one of them can get smarter in 10 days."
Spurrier was irritated, too, that sophomore running back Jarvis Giles missed the scrimmage. He said Giles "always has some issues." The word from the trainer, via the sports information department, is that Giles has an injured left shoulder. There is no timetable on his return.
Same goes for weak-side linebacker Shaq Wilson, who this week tweaked the hamstring that's cost him basically all of camp. Defensive head coach Ellis Johnson, echoing what he said Thursday, said his unit is missing Wilson, a junior who played at middle linebacker last season.
"When he's not in there, our quarterback's gone," Johnson said. "We've got to plan that he might not be back."
Right now, in Wilson's absence, Quin Smith is working on the outside. Tony Straughter is just behind him. Johnson calls that duo "the challengers" for the position.