Has Garcia finally run out of chances?

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
8:37
PM ET
By now, we’ve come to realize that Stephen Garcia just has a way of finding trouble.

Even when he’s not necessarily looking for it, trouble seems to find him.

South Carolina’s fifth-year senior quarterback has been suspended for the first week of spring practice. It’s the third different time in his career that Garcia has missed all or some of spring practice.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who was over Garcia’s act a long time ago, said Tuesday after practice that Garcia’s suspension stemmed from a violation of team rules and that it happened a while back.

[+] EnlargeSouth Carolina's Stephen Garcia
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesSouth Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has been suspended for the first week of spring practice.
“We’re just finally getting around to handling it,” Spurrier said.

The translation: Garcia got caught having a little too much fun at the team hotel a few nights before the Chick-fil-A Bowl last December and is now paying the price.

Had Connor Shaw not been sick and running a fever that week, I’m not sure how much Garcia would have played at all against Florida State.

To be fair, he’s not the first quarterback guilty of having a little too much fun on a bowl trip, and he won’t be the last.

But given his history (and given the Gamecocks’ woeful history in bowl games), is it reaching to think that maybe he would have demonstrated a little more discipline, a little more sense of urgency and a little more willingness to be a leader, especially when South Carolina had a chance to cap an already memorable season with a 10th victory for only the second time in school history?

You see, it’s that lack of sense of urgency -- really about anything -- that has driven the Head Ball Coach batty.

Garcia is one tough customer on game day. He’ll take on safeties, take on linebackers and will keep getting back up no matter how hard he’s hit.

But his decision-making (on and off the field) is what has repeatedly landed him in Spurrier’s dog house. That and a general lack of commitment and focus that Spurrier has questioned over and over again.

To his credit, Garcia responded a year ago with the best season of his career. He passed for more than 3,000 yards, threw 20 touchdown passes … but was also intercepted an SEC-high 14 times.

He was outstanding in the upset of No. 1-ranked Alabama and then threw five interceptions in the Gamecocks’ final two games, reminding us all how he got the “Good Garcia/Bad Garcia” tag.

One thing we know is that it’s never dull with Spurrier when it comes to his quarterbacks.

My advice to South Carolina fans this coming season is to strap it on as tightly as you ever have.

If Garcia doesn’t respond accordingly – and if Shaw outplays him this spring or even plays him to a draw – I have no doubt that Shaw will be the Gamecocks’ starting quarterback to open the 2011 season.

Now what happens after that is anybody’s guess.

But if it’s not Garcia to start the season, how will he respond coming off the bench, and will Spurrier lose him mentally and emotionally the minute Garcia’s not the starter?

Ultimately, Spurrier’s going to play the guy he thinks will best help the team. Nobody likes winning more than the Head Ball coach.

He’s already done what most of us thought he wouldn’t be able to do at South Carolina, and that’s get to the SEC championship game.

His Gamecocks will be favored to win the East for a second straight year in 2011.

Who will be their starting quarterback if they do indeed get back to Atlanta?

Too much road remains between now and then to make that call.

Just make sure you check your seatbelts.

Chris Low | email

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