USC coach Spurrier suggests Garcia, Maddox likely to start

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia will likely start the opener, but will probably wind up in a timeshare with Connor Shaw.

Gerry Melendez

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier spent the better part of Tuesday dropping hints about who would start at several key positions in Thursday's opener against Southern Miss.

The clues centered on going with "older players," junior Stephen Garcia at quarterback and senior Brian Maddox at running back.

The NCAA, however, didn't grant the same courtesy of hint-dropping regarding a few other potential starters.

The Gamecocks thought they might learn Tuesday the fate of a half-dozen players in danger of a suspension related to living arrangements at a Columbia hotel. As of late Tuesday, though, the wait continued. It is expected to end today, however.

"All you can do is do what the NCAA tells you to do," Spurrier said. "That's what we've done. They tell you what the rules are and what kind of punishment comes out. So, we'll accept it and move on, whatever it is. We'll accept it and move on."

Defensive backs Akeem Auguste and C.C. Whitlock are the players who will likely be suspended for one or two games. There's a chance offensive tackle Jarriel King, guard Terrence Campbell and defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye could also be looking at some kind of punishment.

The players all fell behind on their rent at The Whitney Hotel, and that's considered a form of extra benefit, as the NCAA interprets it.

On his radio show Tuesday evening, Spurrier still held out hope that everyone would be available for the opener.

Well, everyone except tight end Weslye Saunders, who Spurrier ruled out earlier in the day. Saunders remains suspended for violating team rules after he lied to Spurrier about why he was late to the team's Aug. 21 practice.

Saunders' predicament is even more complicated, since he's awaiting word from the NCAA about impermissible contact with agents.

There's a growing sentiment inside the program that Saunders, a senior from Durham, N.C., might not suit up again for USC.

"Saunders is not going to play this game, and if anything happens between now and then, we'll let you know," Spurrier said.

Spurrier's next (and final) availability before the game is on this morning's SEC teleconference.

Asked several times Tuesday, and in several different ways, who would start at quarterback, Spurrier never would directly commit to Garcia.

But he did repeatedly say experience would factor greatly into the decision. He said he has "typically" gone with older players, at least to start, in position battles.

Spurrier downplayed the concept of starting, saying it doesn't necessarily mean that is who will see the majority of snaps.

Spurrier said freshman Connor Shaw would play in the first half. He added it would not be a series-by-series deal, but indicated it would still be a semi-regular rotation. Of course, that's subject to change, considering Spurrier is at the wheel.

Asked about his game plan, generally, Spurrier took the chance to defend his history of two-quarterback systems.

"I know some of you here know a lot more about coaching quarterbacks than I do, and you're not supposed to jerk them in and out of the game, it hurts their feelings and all that," Spurrier said. "But of the eight conference championships that I've been fortunate to coach teams, four of those eight, we used two quarterbacks."

Spurrier has contended throughout camp that a platoon can work. He has said, too, that this is more about Shaw being ready to play than Garcia necessarily being bad.

"No, I'm not disappointed in Stephen Garcia. That's what the fans think, we're disappointed with Stephen," Spurrier said Sunday on his TV show. "I think Stephen's trying the best he can. As coaches, all you can ask is that you do the best you can.

"I'm just telling people, we're going to let it play its way out. You've got to let real games determine who the best players are."

That applies to running backs, as well. Spurrier said sophomore Kenny Miles and heralded freshman Marcus Lattimore will be in the game early Thursday, even though Maddox will get the nod.

Injury report

Spurrier all but ruled out WLB Shaq Wilson (hamstring). Tony Straughter and Quin Smith will play there.

He also revealed that starting spur Antonio Allen (hamstring) could miss the game. Sophomore Damario Jeffery has been pushing Allen in camp.

Richardson transfers

Offensive tackle Quintin Richardson plans to transfer to Hampton, he said through a release Tuesday.

Richardson, a Columbia native, was already out for this year after having shoulder surgery. He was also serving an indefinite suspension, pending the results of assault allegations.

Reach Travis Haney at thaney@postandcourier.com, check out the Gamecocks blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/gamecocks and follow him on Twitter (@gamecocksblog).