COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is weathering a storm filled not with thunder and lightning, but some very public criticism by his head coach. While the non-stop scrutiny could have planted seeds of doubt in Garcia's head, the junior from Tampa, Florida appears more confident and ready for a breakout season.
Garcia had a decent year in 2009, his first season as USC's full-time starting quarterback. He was second in the SEC in passing yards per game, and third in total offense. But his performance was not good enough to satisfy the head ball coach. Steve Spurrier was not shy this spring about letting the world know what he thinks about his QB.
"We're not super at quarterback," Spurrier said this spring. "I wish we had a guy who could get us out of plays and this and that and the other, but we're not quite there."
"Stephen should be our best player, but sometimes he doesn't completely act like it," the head ball coach said on another occasion.
"There's no guarantee Stephen will open up the first game," Spurrier also commented. "He should, but if he goes bad and the other guy gets better, then they play."
Spurrier's words stung Garcia, but they also got his attention. "After reading Coach Spurrier's comments and sitting down and talking with him, he just told me he wanted to light a fire underneath me and motivate me," Garcia explained this week. "I think he did that. He got the message across pretty clear.
Garcia rededicated himself this summer, dropping 10 pounds. He's working on developing a quicker release, and he's trying to become a more vocal leader.
Garcia says this could be a special season for the Gamecocks. "Nothing less than SEC champions," he said. "I mean we say that every year we've been here, but I think this is by far the most talented team we've had and the hardest working team we've had. I think that's a pretty good combination."