CFN SEC Bloggers: Stephen Garcia, Winning!
South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia
No, this is not deja vu. It's more like deja cinq. South Carolina's very own bad boy is in trouble once again. Gone Gone Garcia. Is it time for Spurrier to cut bait? If he does, what does it mean for the rushing/passing attacks? And is this really even bad news?
Russ Mitchell: On whether this is really bad news
Stephen Garcia in trouble again... A tradition like no other.
Of course this is bad news, on several fronts. But at this point it no longer really matters what the reasons (read: excuses) are... Nor does it matter how good you assume his backup is. Regardless, it's still probably time to make the upsell from suspension to dismissed.
First, you can't have your quarterback - your fifth year senior quarterback - your team leader - continually screwing up like this. Football is won in the fourth quarter of tight games, particularly in the SEC. Players must have complete confidence and trust in their teammates, especially their leaders.
Who on the Gamecocks really trusts Garcia at this point?
Second, you need to be in the best condition possible come those tight fourth quarter moments, when your body aches to the point that it's tough to maintain focus, let alone a willingness to keep getting pounded. That requires dedication to purpose in the offseason.
Who thinks the SC quarterback is dedicated to anything other than himself? And that spreads like a cancer - particularly when it's your leader behaving so selfishly.
Third, how much confidence do you think this coaching staff has in Garcia right about now?
So REGARDLESS of whether or not Garcia makes it back on this team after the umpteenth suspension and mea culpa, really, who still believes in him besides his mother? Yes, only his mother; by this point if his father has half as much pride as his son has disregard for his teammates, he's up in Columbia taking care of his spoiled child.
"But we're so close to a shot at the brass ring," says Gamecock fan! "We should just look the other way again."
No you can't. You'll lose the team. LSU faced this same problem back in 2008 when Les Miles had to dismiss the perennially troubled (and way more talented) Ryan Perrilloux. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they didn't have someone the caliber of Connor Shaw seasoned and waiting in the wings, which makes the decision perhaps even easier for Steve Spurrier.
However, even if Spurrier cuts bait (see below) the damage is done. Unless Garcia or Shaw take off out of the gate and are flawless, players will innately begin wondering "what might have been", and doubt is a killer in a clubhouse.
Barrett Sallee: Whether Spurrier should just cut bait
It's time for the Head Ball Coach to cut ties with Garcia.
As the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Well, this marks the FIFTH time that Garcia has been suspended. No, that's not a typo, he's been suspended FIVE TIMES.
The rising senior was already in Spurrier's doghouse for pulling a Charlie Sheen in an Atlanta hotel room before the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. You'd think Garcia would have received the message that he needs to be on his best behavior since, you know, he is the SEC's best returning quarterback (at least until Aaron Murray and Tyler Wilson surpass him early in the 2011 season). But enough is enough. South Carolina needs to rid itself of the hassle and move on with sophomore Connor Shaw.
Just how bad has it gotten for Garcia? When South Carolina issued the press release Wednesday afternoon, I checked the date on it three times just to make sure that it wasn't an older release that got hung up in cyberspace. Seriously.
Is Shaw a better option at quarterback? Right now, probably not. But at this point South Carolina can't let Garcia continue to lead this team. Most of his problems are his own, and he hasn't brought down any of his teammates yet. Key word in the previous sentence being "yet."
Garcia is an incident guy, and those are the worst kind of players to have around your program. He's not committing armed robbery like four Auburn players allegedly did, but he's constantly getting into enough trouble to create a serious distraction. More importantly, he's not learning his lesson – and that's not a trait you want to see in someone who is supposed to be a team leader.
Spurrier has been prone to using a revolving door for his quarterbacks during his coaching career. After this latest incident, Spurrier should lock that door and never let Garcia back in.
Brian Harbach: On what it means for the passing attack if he doesn't return
If you want to say losing Garcia is addition by subtraction in terms of leadership...we would agree. If you want to say it is addition by subtraction because Shaw will make less boneheaded mistakes...it won't take that much convincing. However, what you can't do is say that the South Carolina passing game is better without Stephen Garcia.
Is Garcia a terrible leader...does that need a response? Does Garcia make fans throw their hands up in disgust after ridiculous turnovers...another easy one. But he is the best option in Columbia throwing the ball, and the passing game takes a serious hit without him. Sure Alston Jeffrey will get his numbers and LattImore will still be featured more as a receiver, which we saw glimpses of last year.
But don't kid yourself. Shaw is no fifth year senior. He doesn't have a fraction of the big game experience that Garcia has.
We didn't see much of Shaw in big games and it is unfair to judge him on the two picks he threw at Auburn, but inexperienced quarterbacks lock onto primary receivers and make mistakes. Even after two spring practices, even after some snaps in a couple SEC games, even as the son of a coach... Shaw is not a better or smarter passer than Garcia. There will be optimism with Shaw based on those first two statements (leadership and turnovers), but those are intangibles.
The tangible facts are Garcia has (i) a stronger arm, (ii) more experience, and(iii) knows the offense, its players and its coaches better.
A suspension is nothing new to Garcia, and time after time Spurrier welcomes him back. The reason he does is because the kid has talent and Spurrier's not dumb. If Garcia wasn't the best passer on this team he would no longer be on it. The South Carolina passing game is not as good without him.
Billy Gomila: On what it means for the rushing attack if he doesn't return
At first glance, it could make Marcus Lattimore's job a little harder. Alshon Jeffery should help draw a safety away from the line of scrimmage on most plays, as Connor Shaw only has to get the ball in his general vicinity for something good to happen. But the lack of a veteran passing threat means defenses could instead focus more on Lattimore.
However, there may yet be some hidden benefits. Shaw ran some modified spread sets last season, with some zone-read and option looks worked in. If the Gamecocks have to adjust to that style more often than in 2010, it could create some interesting match-ups for Lattimore. He's also a strong receiver out of the backfield, which always helps bring the new passer along - and stops defenses from keying on the run.
Lattimore is going to get his yards. Period. You'd be better suited applying your concern to the offensive line than any changes at quarterback.
Gabe Harris: On what this means for SC - on and off the field
The news that Garcia has been indefinitely suspended, and by indefinitely South Carolina means until his eligibility is up, makes Spurrier's decision regarding who will start at quarterback for the Gamecocks a whole lot easier. Spurrier was going to find a reason one way or another to start Shaw this fall, and now the decision is "made" for him, which takes some of the pressure off.
Spurrier can focus on one quarterback and build up Shaw's confidence, experience and ability to run Spurrier's offense. That confidence will be helped in part by having the SEC's best receiver in Jeffery and best running back in Lattimore.
This decision will do wonders for USC on and off the field. In the long run, it sends a message to the other players - those on campus now or considering SC - that poor behavior will not be tolerated. Not even for start, fifth year senior quarterbacks. Discipline is needed to win in this conference. Discipline and focus - and this decision helps towards that goal.
In the immediate term, the constant distraction that Garcia caused the team, mainly because no one knew when he'd emplode or Spurrier would yank him out of a game, is gone. We've seen the best of Garcia on the field, and while it got USC to heights never before seen, that isn't enough for Spurrier. He wants an SEC Championship, and Garcia wouldn't get him there. Shaw is just a sophomore and he'll be able handle the growth curve, even though there will be some pains for the offense. But this will be better for the team in the long run.
Getting rid of Garcia now allows South Carolina to move forward as one team with one goal. And with Jeffery and Lattimore moving the rock while Spurrier dials up the plays, Saturdays will be a lot of fun (on the field) in Columbia this fall. Even if Garcia isn't the one getting that party started.
Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.
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