I hesitate to include this one on my list of keys because, frankly, I would argue that the off-season focus on Stephen Garcia has been misplaced. Garcia's 2862 yards were more than respectable, and most of his other statistics were at worst average. His performance in some of our better performances was more than adequate, and he was not the root cause of our lesser performances. (Who can forget the bad pass protection, drops, and fumbles that undermined solid Garcia performances at various points throughout the year?) This all leads me to believe that the numerous commentators that have suggested that our success this year rests on whether Garcia has a big year are off the mark--Garcia is very important, but he's not exactly a question mark and, in that sense, not the number-one key to success. In these commentators' defense, a lot of the hullabaloo about Garcia owes to how Steve Spurrier kept his negative appraisal of Garcia's off-season progression at the center of the conversation about the team over the spring and early summer. Spurrier has been down on Garcia ever since he showed up to spring camp sporting a few extra pounds of flab and has often indicated that he won't hesitate if need be to bench Garcia in favor of true freshman Conner Shaw. However, while I don't think it would surprise anyone who has followed Spurrier over the years too much to see him have his QBs play musical chairs, a lot of us thought all along that Spurrier was publicly criticizing Garcia to motivate him to work hard to improve more so than because Spurrier is actually considering playing a true freshman over an experienced QB that has had Garcia's success. It doesn't matter how many great performances Shaw has against the second-team defense and how much potential he might have; Garcia is likely this team's QB unless he really falls apart. If that has indeed been the case all along, then Spurrier's motivational gambit would appear to have paid off: Garcia lost the weight and has worked hard on his game over the summer. The reviews, so far, have been mostly positive from Spurrier and QBs coach G. A. Mangus. That should probably ease anyone's lingering worries about Garcia.
All of this said, it continues to be the case that Garcia has room for improvement in some facets of his game, and whether or not he can execute better in those areas could certainly go a long way to determining how successful this team will be. This is, after all, a Spurrier-coached team, and the QB position will be at the center of the offensive approach. To me, the place where Garcia could afford the most room for improvement is in limiting the number of sacks he takes. Garcia took 37 last year, good for worst in the SEC. That number is a little misleading in terms of Garcia's individual performance, as he led the conference in attempts--and was thus had more chances to be sacked--and played behind an at times porous offensive line. However, the team would certainly benefit if Garcia learned when it's best to get rid of the ball and when it's best to scramble. There's a tricky line to thread here; certainly, one of the good things about having a mobile QB is that he can at times turn a busted play into positive yardage by scrambling. For that reason, I don't think you want to tell a QB that can make plays with his legs to never scramble when the pocket breaks down. However, it seemed that we saw Garcia going to his feet and getting sacked when he could have thrown the ball away all too often. If he could learn to limit these kinds of plays, we would benefit by finding ourself in less unmanageable long yardage situations.
Stay tuned for the final two keys, which I hope to put up over the next couple of days.