This post is the first installment of a two-three part series on the relative merits of Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley.
Undoubtedly to the chagrin of many Gamecocks fans, Steve Spurrier is leaning towards Chris Smelley as his starting QB against Clemson. Spurrier claims that he will probably play Smelley most of the game and that while Garcia may come in at times, the freshman is just not ready because of his lack of knowledge of the playbook and tendency to leave the pocket too early. Is SOS making the wrong decision?
Before looking at the advantages and disadvantages of the two signal callers, let's take a look at how the two signal callers have performed over the course of the season. For the year, the two have surprisingly similar statistics. Here they are:
Smelley has played more, hence his greater overall yardage, completions, etc. However, they have similar passer ratings, and Garcia's yardage per attempt stacks up comparably to Smelley's. One difference is that Garcia has a slightly better TD to INT ratio, while Smelley has a better completion percentage. Overall, though, these stats confirm SOS's claim that neither QB has really distinguished himself.
However, is it fair to compare the two for the season and just say they're the same QB? Looking at the issue in other ways, we can see that both have arguments in their favor. Today, we're going to look at arguments in favor of Garcia. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at Smelley's pluses, so stay tuned.
One potential argument for Garcia is that Garcia had played much better than Smelley until Spurrier implemented what has turned out to an ill-advised QB rotation system that negatively affected Garcia's play more than it did Smelley's. In those two games, Garcia posted the following lines:
Before these two games, Garcia had performed much better, but these numbers brought Garcia's season stats down a good bit. Would Garcia go back to playing like he did in the second half against Kentucky if Spurrier put his confidence in the freshman told him he would let him go the distance? Part of the answer depends on whether or not you agree that the rotation system has confused Garcia, but considering the dismal offensive showing we had against the Gators, it's at the very least fair to say that the rotation system was not the best way to go.
Another argument in favor of Garcia is that Garcia's mobility could add a new dimension to our offense. Considering that Carolina sports an offensive line that blows away like a pile of leaves in the wind, some reasonably think that Garcia's mobility could be useful for us. Moreover, with Garcia under center we could run more options and QB draw plays, which would give opposing defenses more to think about while preparing for us.
Of course, Spurrier has resisted the idea of changing his offensive philosophy, instead insisting that Garcia work on becoming a pocket passer. Therefore, Garcia's mobility has for the most part only worked to our advantage when he has scrambled to escape sacks, and, as Spurrier points out, at times Garcia's tendency to leave the pocket too quickly has worked against us.
Is Spurrier being stubborn by insisting that Garcia learn the Fun-n-Gun instead of installing a simplified passing attack combined with designed runs and option plays? Perhaps. Garcia's future with South Carolina undoubtedly involves learning Spurrier's offense from cover to cover, but since Garcia likely won't be able fully to do that until after the season, one solution to getting the most out of Garcia's skills would be to adapt the offensive gameplan to Garcia's skill set.