COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier made his first public comments about the tumultuous dismissal of former starting quarterback Stephen Garcia on Wednesday during an SEC teleconference among coaches and reporters.
Spurrier said he found out about Garcia's impending dismissal Monday night. "I wish he had stayed and could have finished his career as a Gamecock one way or another," said Spurrier, calling the dismissal unfortunate.
The head ball coach also said his exclusion of critical columnist Ron Morris from Tuesday's press conference wasn't an attempt to smokescreen Garcia's dismissal, which happened soon after Spurrier publicly chastised Morris.
Spurrier stressed the importance of keeping now-starting quarterback Connor Shaw healthy, especially in light of backup Andrew Clifford's on-field inexperience. "As a coach, you take the players you've got and get ready to go play," commented Spurrier.
"It's very important for the guys to rally around Connor," said Spurrier, who noted that Shaw's father was his high school football coach. "We have to let him play and see what happens."
Fans say their expectations have been gradually sinking since the beginning of the season. Now with Shaw in charge, they're looking ahead with cautious optimism.
With a roster packed with top-rated talent topped off with a fifth-year senior coming off a big year, it was supposed to be Carolina's season. Championship talk was in the air, and then they started playing.
"I think we did turn out to be a little overrated," said Anne Evangelsta. "Reporters got ahead of themselves this summer because of Clowney and expectations for Garcia."
Shaw's great showing against a struggling Kentucky team does *not have everyone convinced. "We were playing a below-average team," said Sam Mathur. "I don't think we can hang with the big teams."
"He obviously looked good against Kentucky, that was encouraging," commented Todd Strickland. "Can he be consistent?"
He'll need to be -- without Garcia on the roster, there's no proven backup. But fans say if Shaw stays hot and healthy, the future could be bright. "If he can be as accurate as he was and we can utilize all our weapons we have, I think we could still be successful and accomplish the goals we had at the start of the season," added Strickland.
"He's got a lot to learn, and I think the only way you can learn that is through experience," said Kristen Stenger.
Big-time experience is coming Shaw's way this weekend with a three-game series of away games. If the Gamecocks want to get back to Atlanta, they can ill-afford another SEC loss.