Stephen Garcia to rejoin team for camp
HOOVER, Ala. -- Steve Spurrier was back in his old SEC media days form, cracking wise, raving about his team's offensive playmakers and still managing a folksy dose of poormouthing, too.
He said "in all likelihood", quarterback Stephen Garcia will be back in the fold for preseason camp. After all, Spurrier cracked, "I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity."
Yep, the head ball coach had his famous dry wit on full display Wednesday, almost like his swaggering Florida days. He's back on top again, at least in the Southeastern Conference's East Division, and there's no reason to hold back too much.
"Most coaches if they win a lot, win a lot of championships, they do talk a little bit more," Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks have plenty to talk about these days after making the SEC championship game for the first time and knocking off both Clemson and then-No. 1 Alabama.
One hot topic: Garcia. He was suspended for the fifth time in April, this one for his behavior in a life skills seminar.
Spurrier said the senior quarterback has done everything required of him so far to rejoin the team and has made some "lifestyle changes." But will he start? That's open for discussion.
Spurrier said the SEC's most experienced quarterback will still have to beat out sophomore Connor Shaw, who was solid in nine relief appearances last season.
"We're going to have competition," Spurrier said. "I guess everyone assumes Stephen is going to be the quarterback if he's there. But we'll see."
There's little doubt who the emerging quarterback's biggest weapons will be. Powerful running back Marcus Lattimore emerged as one of the league's most unstoppable forces and Alshon Jeffery was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
Spurrier's 2 cents: They're the nation's best at their position, and it's not an outlandish opinion. As for the rest of the team, he said it might be the best collection of talent he's had in his seven seasons with the Gamecocks. Plus, he's got the nation's No. 1 recruit in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Spurrier says Clowney will be on the field "early and often" as a freshman.
But Spurrier also points out that South Carolina took advantage of down years for East rivals Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and repeating as division champs won't be easy.
"I think so far the guys are pretty levelheaded," Spurrier said. "But the fans, because we've not had a lot of success there, they're going to tell the guys how great they are. Hopefully we'll be smart enough to handle it and go from there.
"But historically we've not, so it will be a challenge to see if we can handle some preseason predictions, 'cause we've never had much of those before in the past."
Lattimore thinks the Gamecocks have the makings of a contender.
"We've got the talent to do it on offense, defense and special teams," he said. "We've just got to finish. We've got a good shot to win it, I think."
And they've got a veteran quarterback who has started 30 games. Or a younger guy who has shown flashes both as a runner and a passer..
Jeffery is OK with either of them.
"My level of confidence with Connor is 100 percent," he said. "I'm behind each of our quarterbacks 100 percent, no matter what."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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