Mon Mar 29 12:44pm EDT
To describe Steve Spurrier as "antsy" about lack of depth at quarterback would be like describing the national mood over health care reform as "heightened," only maybe more of an understatement. Through 20 years and 20 different starting QBs since taking over at Florida — including his two-year stint with the Redskins — the Ball Coach has managed to resist the urge to yank only four: All-American Heisman candidates Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Rex Grossman at Florida, and Stephen Garcia at South Carolina. At one point, he notoriously alternated Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise on every other play against Florida State in 1997, and scored one of his biggest upsets over the undefeated 'Noles in the process.
Spurrier admitted as much himself before the start of the Gamecocks' spring practice last month, when he told the Orlando Sentinel re: Garcia, who took every meaningful snap in 2009, "... last year was the only year I’ve ever coached where I had one quarterback and no matter what he did he stayed in the game. I still believe if a guy goes bad, you’d like to have someone else to put in."
After Saturday's scrimmage, Spurrier sounded like he was beginning to think about other guys to put in:
[Andrew] Clifford and Zac Brindise (5-for-8 for 72 yards) outplayed starter Stephen Garcia and freshman Connor Shaw. Afterward, Spurrier was asked if Clifford and Brindise had made waves in the battle to be the top backup.
"They were in contention for the starting job today," Spurrier said. "They were the two best out here today."
"We just got to be ready to play at all times, because you never know with coach Spurrier, he'll push you in whenever," Clifford said. "It'll be at any random time. ..."
Indeed, young Andrew, though even with Spurrier, I'd stop short of calling such spring smoke anything but a "warning" to Garcia, still the only quarterback on the roster who's set foot on a field in a game. I wouldn't begin to suggest that anyone other than the fourth-year-junior-to-be would start the opener against Southern Miss. I would suggest, though — especially considering Garcia's mediocre effort in conference play and absolutely dreadful finish in the bowl loss to UConn — that the OBC may be the only coach with a short enough fuse to make good on that threat if things go as they did last year, when USC failed to top 16 points in all but one of the last seven games and finished next-to-last in the SEC in scoring offense, ahead of only Vanderbilt.
Blame the offensive line, dropped passes or chronic red zone failures if you please; everything in Spurrier's history suggests he's prone to blame the quarterback. For all his experience and hype, if Garcia doesn't show some signs of turning the corner in the first few games, someone else will get his chance to.