COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 08: Connor Shaw #14 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drops back to pass during their game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
After watching Connor Shaw pick apart the Kentucky defense yesterday afternoon, lots of us are probably wondering whether or not Spurrier waited a week too long to give Shaw another chance. After all, Stephen Garcia had struggled to throw the ball accurately and make good decisions more or less all season, and to many of us, it was clear that a change needed to be after the Vanderbilt game, if, that is, there was another viable option. It's now clear that Shaw is a viable option. So why didn't Spurrier go to Shaw against Auburn? Word coming out of coming out of camp has been that Spurrier had decided to go with Garcia until the Gamecocks lost, but why would he do that, particularly considering how important that game was and it's import for what will likely be a tight SEC East race with Florida and Georgia?
This is just speculation on my part, but based on what we saw in the East Carolina game, I think there may be some lingering chemistry issues with Garcia and the rest of the team. Despite the fact that Spurrier thinks Shaw is the better QB and that Spurrier appears to be right based on yesterday's results, the team seemed more comfortable with Garcia in the game, despite Garcia's struggles. Garcia has been the starter for a very long time, and he's been with many of these players through thick and thin. He was one of the emotional center's of last season's breakthrough, after all. Therefore, some of the players may not have been comfortable with the switch to Shaw. However, once Garcia's play cost us a game, it was probably more clear to a lot of those players that a change needed to be made, and that they needed to rally behind the new QB. I think that's part of what you saw yesterday. Really, Shaw didn't play much differently than he did against ECU, save for the fact that he didn't fumble yesterday. However, the team looked more comfortable with him in the game, knowing that they needed to support him and that he's really the QB now. I'm not saying that Spurrier decided that he needed to throw a game to teach his players a lesson. I'm just saying that I think this situation presented some delicate issues and it wasn't going to be possible to make the change until it was the right time. That time was after the loss to Auburn, and the good news is that the team seems to have regrouped and is prepared to make a run now.
Because of Garcia's importance to the team as an emotional cog, I would like to see us try to get him involved in some way, if he's interested in playing a secondary role on the team, that is. Although he's passed the ball poorly this year, he is running it extremely well, and I think it could be beneficial to the team--both strategically and emotionally--if we install some non-passing packages for Garcia. He could play the kind of role Tim Tebow played for Florida in 2006, coming in to gut out first downs and to run the ball in on the goal line. I think he'd be very effective in that role.
As far as whether he'll start at primary QB again, I think he's probably done. Connor played as well yesterday as I've seen Garcia play outside of last year's Alabama game, and Connor is a sophomore who will improve with experience. Garcia, on the other hand, has had five years and a million second chances, and what we have with him is the QB you saw against Auburn. I know that there are some Carolina fans out there who still seem to see Garcia as the team's QB and want him back in the starter's role as soon as possible, but really, folks, there's been no evidence over the course of his career that Garcia is capable of consistently playing at a high level, and after yesterday, there's abundant evidence that we have a better option. Don't let your loyalty to a player blind you to the facts in this situation. To be honest, I see the idea that Garcia should be the starter as an idea so absurd as to be almost below the dignity of response. I wish Garcia all the best from here on out and thank him for the effort he's put into this program and some of the big wins he's been a part of. I'll just leave it at that; hopefully that's my final word on the QB controversy for the year, because I see it as being over.