South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said earlier this week that redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia, expected to be one of the leading contenders for the starter' job, could miss multiple practices this spring for excessive class absences in the fall.
But, Spurrier appeared to partially back off those statements Thursday night, even going so far to say Garcia may not have to sit out any workouts.
"He may or may not (miss any practices)", Spurrier said after speaking to the Florence County Gamecock Club at the Floyd Conference Center located at the Carolinas Hospital System Medical Complex.
"He had one class attendance problem, but it wasn't all his fault. But it was his fault, too. So, anyway, he'll be all right."
Following a heralded prep football career and early graduation from high school, Garcia arrived on the USC campus in January of 2007. But he quickly found himself in hot water as a result of a pair of misdemeanor arrests.
Garcia was suspended from spring practice last year, so this year's Garnet and Black game on April 19 could be the first time many Gamecock fans have watched the prized prospect in action.
Garcia will compete with incumbents Chris Smelley (1,176 passing yards in 2007) and Tommy Beecher (175 passing yards) for the starting job. Spurrier said a month ago he wants to add a package to the offensive scheme allowing the quarterback to run the football more.
In order to assist the quarterbacks, Spurrier reiterated he will be more involved in all facets of the offense this spring, particularly the offensive line.
"I've learned that when your quarterback is being smashed in the mouth, it doesn't matter how much I'm coaching him," Spurrier said. "The offensive line has to play a lot better. I'm going to try to help our line coach (John Hunt) get our guys to play at a better level because it hasn't been good enough."
While the news was favorable for Garcia, Spurrier also spoke Thursday about his decision this week to suspend defensive Carlos Thomas indefinitely for violating team rules and a 'behavioral problem'.
"Carlos just had a little behavioral problem, so we've kicked him off the team for a while," Spurrier said. "If his behavior improves, he's got a chance to get back on (the team)."
Spurrier declined to say Thomas would return in time for the start of spring practice.
Spurrier also confirmed Thursday night senior running back Mike Davis, considered the leading candidate to replace Cory Boyd in the role of top rusher in the backfield, must sit out one game this season because of academic reasons.
Spurrier told the Florence audience that game would 'probably' be the home game against UAB on Sept. 27.
"Mike is ready to go. He's had some excellent winter workouts," Spurrier said. "He's faster and quicker than he's ever been. Mike is ready. Brian Maddox is ready."
Davis rushed for 518 yards on 114 attempts last season, but had just four carries in the final two games against Florida and Clemson.
Reflecting on his first three years as head coach of the Gamecocks, Spurrier said USC "has sort of been average, nothing more than that." Spurrier is 21-16 with one bowl victory at USC.
"We're not there yet," Spurrier continued. "We're going to do some things differently on offense. Hopefully, that will get us a little bit above mediocrity because that's sort of where we've been."
Spurrier confirmed Dustin Lindsey "has a chance to" shift to tight end, although the senior has played defense throughout his first four seasons with the program.
Lindsey has played just a handful of snaps for the Gamecocks since the conclusion of the 2005 season. He was academically ineligible for the 2006 season and suffered a serious knee injury in last April's spring game.
He played a few snaps in the Georgia game but sat out the rest of the year.
Spurrier continued to laud the addition of new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski to the USC coaching staff.
"Coach Rychleski is a real ball coach. I like this guy," Spurrier said. "He talks about going best against best in punt block and punt protection. I said we need to do that more on offense, the number one offense against the number one defense. We're going to do that all spring. Hopefully, we can teach our guys to compete at a little bit higher level."
The combination of better players, an improved attitude and superior assistant coaches has Spurrier optimistic about next season.
"We have a better team as far as athletes," Spurrier said. "Now we have better coaches. We haven't coached very well. You can blame me for that. For some reason, we have not been as well coached as we should be. And our players don't play with the effort level you have to play with. We're trying to do some things differently. We're trying to go in a new direction with Carolina football. We can't just keep doing what we've been doing."
-- Spurrier scolded the crowd for cheering when he mentioned former wide receiver Sidney Rice, who forego his final two years of college eligibility and enter last April's NFL Draft. Rice had 31 catches for 396 yards this past season for Minnesota. "Sidney should have come back and played another year," Spurrier said. "Sidney's not on our Kenny McKinley and Jasper Brinkley list. Those two players could have gone pro but they wanted to come back. I think the players now enjoy playing for Carolina and want to graduate from our school. They're smart enough to know that forever they'll be loved by the Carolina fans because they played out their eligibility."
-- Spurrier noted USC beat three teams last season that won bowl games - Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky. Spurrier said he believed it was the first time in school history that had happened.
-- Spurrier noted USC has led in the fourth quarter of all three meetings with Clemson in his tenure at USC. The difference in each game, he said, was Clemson's final possession. Twice they scored to take the lead, the other time they missed the field goal attempt. He blamed the inability to hold leads against the Tigers on the defense's failure to execute, something he hopes new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson can fix.
-- Spurrier said right now Cory Boyd is the only USC player projected to be selected in April's NFL Draft. Casper Brinkley is a possible draftee, he said.
-- While he's pleased with how winter conditioning is going, Spurrier said it's time for the players to transfer that same kind of effort and intensity to the football field on game day, which has not always occurred in the past.
-- Spurrier said USC is "still a young team" heading into the 2008 season. "They are buying in to what we're trying to sell," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, the results will come forth real soon."
-- Spurrier agreed with a fan that USC's offense needed more misdirection plays, or 'trick plays' as he called them.
-- Pro golfer Tommy Gainey, nicknamed "Two Gloves" attended Thursday's meeting. He's a native of the Palmetto State.
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