South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier loves his quarterbacks.
During his time spent with the University of Florida, it was well documented that "The Ol' Ball Coach" wasn't thrilled at the challenge of coaching the defense, or any other offensive position, for that matter. Steve Spurrier had all attention shifted toward the epitome of his offensive system, the quarterback.
That procedure probably worked to Steve Spurrier's advantage, as Florida's head coach was the apparent mainstay to the Gators success. The visor-wearing coach, who stalked the sidelines of The Swamp (a nickname he had given to Florida's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) had amassed some statistical advantages of which the University of Florida had never seen. Spurrier garnered six Southeastern Conference Championships while a Gator, become the second coach in SEC history to eclipse 100 wins in a decade, and averaged 10 wins per season.
Not to mention, his offensive system, the Fun 'N Gun, produced off-the-wall results and drove defensive coordinators across the south absolutely berserk. Spurrier saw Danny Wuerffel win the 1996 Heisman, as well as his Florida Gators win the 1996 National Championship over Florida State. Known for his witty press conference remarks and notable knacks of running up the score, Spurrier is having trouble mustering anything of the sort in Columbia, SC.
When Spurrier's marriage to the University of Florida abruptly ended on Jan. 4, 2002, the entire state was sent into shock. Gators fans and their unwillingness to cope with the loss only got worse when they witnessed their former coach become the new head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins 10 days later.
Spurrier only spent a season with the Redskins, one that was a roller coaster ride of mixed results. Washington finished the season 7-9, with patches and portions of highs and lows throughout the year. Spurrier remained out of the football world for about a year or two, until his name resurfaced at the helm of an open job with the University of Florida.
Ultimately, Spurrier grew tired of waiting, and become South Carolina's new head coach. Urban Meyer took over at Florida, winning two National Championships in four seasons. With Spurrier's success at Florida behind him, the Ol' Ball Coach looked forward to beginning something new at the University of South Carolina.
To quickly sum up his tenure at South Carolina, it's been ugly. The Gamecocks have posted a 28-22 overall record since Spurrier inherited the program in 2005, and regressed almost as bad offensively this season as they did in Spurrier's first year at the university.
For a head coach that emphasized rivalries as much as Spurrier did while at Florida, his resume shows anything but with the Gamecocks. South Carolina is 1-3 against Georgia, Florida, and Clemson under Steve Spurrier. They're also 2-2 against Tennessee, and 1-2 in bowl games.
However, for a program that's been lacking firepower, Steve Spurrier might just have his knight in shining armor. On campus, quarterback Stephen Garcia is now stepping into the threshold of the South Carolina offense. Garcia, who has been in and out of trouble since enrolling at the university, now must show the maturity needed to be Steve Spurrier's starting quarterback, a job that hasn't been easy under Spurrier's watch.
Garcia looks to step up and perform under an offense that's been up and down throughout Spurrier's tenure. Garcia takes center stage in an offense that accounted for throwing 27 interceptions in 2008, the most in college football.
A regular in Spurrier's quarterback rotation, Stephen Garcia now has his back against the wall. The margin for error is slim to none, and with only four returning offensive starters and a handful of new offensive coaches, next year could either make or break Garcia.
The redshirt sophomore will watch as Kenny McKinley and Jared Cook leave the program, highly successful as pass catchers while Gamecocks. Although both Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher are indeed transferring, Garcia's job is still not absolutely secure. Stephen Gilmore, who plays both sides of the ball, could challenge Garcia's starting position with a strong spring.
Spurrier said of Garcia that "all of our eggs are in his basket now," meaning it's his time to shine. With the departure of some big time play-makers comes the arrival of some fresh blood, freshman and sophomores who are highly talented. Stephen Garcia is only the core of that program.
As a redshirt freshman, Garcia threw six touchdowns and eight interceptions last season, all the while throwing for 832 yards as the second option at quarterback for Spurrier's Gamecocks. Garcia also accounted for 198 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns.
While the stats may not blow you away, it's a start. The foundation for winning seasons to come is set in Columbia, and it's up to Spurrier and his new coaching staff to provide that face lift for a program with high expectations.
By and by, the Ol' Ball Coach will keep teaching his guy, Stephen Garcia, while Garcia expects to produce. Either way, the hay is in the barn, and it's time for the Stephen Garcia era in South Carolina.