This third installment of the report cards looks at the quarterback position. First, the numbers:
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Discussion: The beginning of Stephen Garcia's career at South Carolina was marked by minor troubles and some on the field struggles. Those events happened years ago, but many people can't shake the image they have of a young quarterback making errors on and off the field. Anyone who is focusing on these things isn't paying attention to what Stephen has been doing on the field.
Expectations for a Steve Spurrier quarterback are always high. Coach Spurrier's expectations are high, and everyone who expects to see the Fun 'n' Gun has great expectations of the quarterback. The system is so good when it works, but it requires a high level of play from the signal caller. The HBC made lots of comments in the off season to try to light a fire under Garcia, and the hope for fans was that they psychological ploy would payoff.
Last season Garcia improved over the course of the season, and this year, with one notable exception, he continued that climb. Some of his early season mistakes with fumbles and interceptions became increasingly rare as he matured into a veteran quarterback. His increasing success appears to be the result of his off season work and the emergence of Marcus Lattimore to take the pressure off of the passing game. The SEC Championship Game was not Stephen's best game, and that memory will diminish what was an excellent year for Garcia. But if you look at his performance, ask yourself "When was the last time he was pulled by a Coach that loves pulling his quarterbacks?"
Speaking of pulling the starter, Connor Shaw, a freshman, came in and quickly established himself as the backup. He had more playing time early before Stephen Garcia's season really took off. He seems to be coming along, and though he isn't ready to be the starter today, there is every indication that he will be after next season.
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Grade: B. The performance in the SECCG impacts the score, otherwise it would have been much better. There is still room for improvement. Stephen still holds on the ball too long at times and can detrimentally lock onto one receiver. However, he didn't cost the team any games, the first Auburn game aside, and he emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.
Glancing Ahead: Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw will both be back next year. If they improve in the off season like Stephen improved in the past off season Gamecock fans should be able to look forward to some of the best quarterback play in the nation.