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Spurrier not sold on Garcia as his starter

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Connor Shaw ought to be getting ready for his high school prom about now.

Instead, he’s getting ready for what could be a neck-and-neck race for South Carolina’s starting quarterback job.

Steve Spurrier hasn’t been pleased with what he’s seen out of incumbent Stephen Garcia this spring and doesn’t mind saying so. It’s to the point where Spurrier is seriously considering playing Shaw next fall if the 6-foot, 199-pound true freshman makes the kind of strides this summer Spurrier thinks he will.

As for Garcia, Spurrier is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever get it. And that’s putting it mildly.

“If we’re going to win big here, the quarterback’s got to play well,” Spurrier said. “He’s got to really play well. He can’t play like Stephen did last year. We can’t take sacks all over the place, first-down sacks, and some of those careless interceptions.

“He just has to play well and maybe we haven’t coached Stephen very well, but he plays undisciplined. We’re trying to get him to play disciplined.”

Garcia’s numbers improved dramatically in his first full season as the starter a year ago. In fact, he led the SEC in total offense in conference games. He and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett were the only two quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,000 yards against league foes.

But Garcia also finished with 10 interceptions in all games and completed just 55.3 percent of his passes. His worst game was his last one, South Carolina’s ugly 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the bowl game.

He’s sunk deeper and deeper into Spurrier’s doghouse ever since, and Spurrier’s frustration level with Garcia is now nearing a breaking point.

All the while, Spurrier is doing his best to get Shaw ready to play and insists he has no problem starting a true freshman next season.

“I’m prepared to play the best quarterback,” said Spurrier, who’s never been hesitant to juggle his quarterbacks. “Obviously, your quarterback has got to have a strong commitment. He’s got to reflect what the team’s about, and we’re having a tough time getting Stephen to really show that he’s got a strong commitment to wanting to be the best quarterback and the best player and the best person that he can be.

“Hopefully, he’ll change. But thus far, he hasn’t shown it.”

Spurrier said the summer months will be critical in terms of the whole quarterback race. Sort of sounds odd to be saying there is a race when you consider that Garcia is the SEC’s active career leader in total yards (4,078) and passing yards (3,694).

But for Spurrier, it goes much deeper than mere numbers.

“I’m excited for the future right now, and I’m hoping Stephen Garcia will change his ways a little bit and get fired up about being a great quarterback,” Spurrier said. “But he just doesn’t do anything extra. He does just what he has to do and nothing more, and it’s not going to work that way. The quarterback’s got to know everything and know what’s going on.

“Unless he changes the way he plays, he’s not going to be our quarterback.”

Consider this Spurrier’s loudest and perhaps final warning to the guy who came to South Carolina three years ago as the Gamecocks’ quarterback of the future.

We’ll see how Garcia responds. The Gamecocks wrap up their spring on Saturday with their annual Garnet & Black Game.

These next five or six months will undoubtedly shape his future one way or the other.