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South Carolina Football All-Decade Team: Quarterback

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This post continues a series picking an All-Decade Team. Over the summer, we'll be honoring the best players Carolina has had at each position over the past ten years. We'll also give shout-outs to some of the other memorable players we've had. In our last four installments of this series, I picked Ryan Succop as our top placekicker, Spencer Lanning as our punter, Marcus Lattimore (with an honorable mention to Cory Boyd) as our runningback, Jared Cook at tight end, Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice at wide receiver, and Travelle Wharton, Garrett Chisolm, T.J. Johnson, Shane Hall, and Melvin Paige on the offensive line.

Today, we're taking a look at what should be one of the more interesting entries in our series, quarterback. The quarterback is always the most talked-about player on the team, but it seems that the position has carried more than the usual drama with us than elsewhere. Carolina has fielded some interesting talents at quarterback over the past ten years, but those players have generally failed to live up to expectations or have been inconsistent in doing so. We've also had some colorful characters at the position, with Blake Mitchell and Stephen Garcia in particular being known for their off-field antics. The position is also notable for having been a point of contention during the Spurrier era, with many wondering why our reputed quarterback guru has failed to recruit and / or coach up an elite SEC quarterback during his tenure.

There are three quarterbacks we'll be considering: Phil Petty, Mitchell, and Garcia. We've had a number of other starters over the years, including Corey Jenkins, Dondrial Pinkins, Syvelle Newton, and Chris Smelley. However, while each of these players has had his moments, they have failed to hold onto the starting job for very long and / or to have significant success. Petty, Mitchell, and Garcia, on the other hand, have been long-term starters and have presided over the more successful seasons we've had over the course of the decade.

Here are some career stats to ponder for each player:

Petty: 52.9% / 5245 yds / 25 TD / 27 INT / 111.3 RAT
Mitchell: 60.7% / 5992 yds / 38 TD / 30 INT / 132.3 RAT
Garcia: 58.5% / 6753 yds / 43 TD / 32 INT / 129.9 RAT

Keep reading after the jump.

When I evaluate about QBs, I'm interested in balancing their statistics against their ability to lead us to wins. A few things jump out at me about these statistics. First of all, Petty, a fan-favorite due to his reputation for being a tough team leader during the memorable 2000 and 2001 seasons, has by far the worst statistics of the trio. That's partially because he played on the lean 1998 and 1999 squads and never played for a team that liked to pass, but it's also because he simply wasn't very efficient. One might write off total yards and TDs to style of play, but his career RAT is quite low and he never posted one above 123. INTs were also frequently a problem for him, as his negative career TD-INT ratio suggests; even during a successful 2000 season, he had a negative ratio. Despite his strong reputation, I see these as being serious enough flaws to prevent me from picking Petty. For all Petty did, I still see the Outback teams as being products of defensive excellence, as opposed to bastions of quality offensive talent.

The second thing that surprised me was that Mitchell was seemingly the most efficient of the bunch. I don't know about you, but this isn't exactly how I remember those years going down. However, stats don't lie, and Mitchell's 130+ rating is quite respectable. My main knock against him, though, is that he was unable to hold down the starting job in 2006 and 2007 and that he was a poor finisher who rarely seemed to make a key play at the right time. The 2006 Arkansas and 2007 Tennessee games, when Mitchell came off the bench to lead comebacks he wasn't able to finish, sum up my impression of his legacy. He was a very good QB, but he never quite got over the hump.

The third candidate is our (presumably) current signal-caller, Garcia. Garcia has become rather infamous for his repeated and oftentimes bizarre off-field misbehavior, but his statistics are very solid. Despite having only played three years, Garcia is well ahead of the other two in total yards, a product of having spent two relatively successful years as a full-time starter in a fairly pass-heavy offensive scheme. He could very well break Carolina's all-time record in that department with a big 2011. He also has the most TDs and best TD-INT ratio, and could surpass Mitchell's RAT with an efficient 2011. Like Petty, Garcia has distinguished himself with some clutch performances, such as his lights-out play against Alabama last year. The big knocks against Garcia are the inexplicably horrible games, particularly all his post-season performances, and, of course, the off-field fiascos.

Still, as you might have already guessed, I'm partial to Garcia as our All-Decade QB. I see Garcia as possessing the best of what Petty and Mitchell bring to the table: Garcia both has great stats and has led us to lots of big wins. The stats speak for themselves, and although the off-field incidents will always be a knock against his leadership skills, you can't deny that he's come to play in some big games. As surprising as it may sound considering all the drama he's caused, with a good year in 2011 he could very well go down not only as Carolina's best quarterback of the 2000s but, indeed, as our best of all-time.