Stephen Garcia Reinstated; South Carolina QB Competition Will Heat Up

James Gray IICorrespondent IAugust 2, 2008

Stephen Garcia, the highly recruited dual-threat quarterback out of Florida, was approved for early reinstatement and participated in the first preseason practice Friday in Columbia, S.C.

The redshirt freshman has had three run-ins with the law since stepping foot on campus back in January 2007. 

His previous suspension was initially to last until Aug. 15, which stemmed from an underage drinking ticket.  Garcia thanked school officials for allowing him to rejoin his team and said he would stay out of the media till he actually plays in a game.  

Even before Garcia arrived on campus there were talks the long haired kid nicknamed, "Achilles", was the missing piece to bring Spurrier and South Carolina into SEC title contention. 

The hype and anticipation was quickly chilled and sent to the back burner; many wondered if Garcia would ever see the playing field, let alone be allowed back in school. 

Now with two extra weeks to compete for playing time, Garcia is excited to get out on the practice field and try to put the past behind him. The former No. 4 quarterback out of the 2007 recruiting class will have less than a month to work into Spurriers' offense and try to steal some time from Beecher and Smelley.

Right now Beecher is slightly ahead of Smelley on the depth chart, but neither has impressed the Ole Ball Coach, combining for eight interceptions in the Spring game.  We all know Spurrier isn't afraid to pull quarterbacks, last season we saw Smelley benched in favor of Blake Mitchell while putting up good numbers.

With a close battle still brewing, it wouldn't surprise me if Garcia added his name to the picture and possibly stole the starting job mid way through the season if Beecher or Smelley struggle.

Either way, with Garcia finally putting the pads on, Beecher and Smelley have to elevate their game, because the former Tampa quarterback is eager for his college football debut.