When Steve Spurrier said Sunday that starting quarterback Stephen Garcia "has played pretty well," it represented a significant improvement in Spurrier's opinion.
During the offseason, South Carolina's coach publicly questioned Garcia's ability to lead the Gamecocks out of the middle of the SEC pack. And not many people stepped up to defend the junior returning starter.
Garcia's name was nowhere to be found on preseason All-SEC teams. Now Garcia's name is at the top of not just the conference statistics but the national rankings, and he has helped South Carolina position itself for a shot at the SEC East title.
"Certainly, he has played his best football since he's been here," Spurrier said. "He has progressed and played pretty well."
Garcia is completing 70.6 percent of his passes. He is second in the SEC and fifth in the country in quarterback rating (168) and is third in the league in passing yards per game (238).
Garcia isn't ready to discuss his progress from a year ago, when he finished 10th in the SEC in quarterback rating and clearly in his coach's doghouse.
"I guess we will find out at the end of the year," he said.
"I don't really know about expectations as far as stats and all that. I'm just concerned about the SEC and where we stand in it and playing in Atlanta (for the SEC title)."
A look at how Garcia stacks up to the rest of the league's signal-callers:
1. Cam Newton, Auburn
The easiest pick on the list. He leads the conference in rushing (124.7 ypg) and has completed 66.7 percent of his passes while throwing 15 touchdowns vs. five interceptions. Now he's catching touchdowns, too -- to keep himself from getting bored, apparently.
2. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
One of only five players in the country who is throwing for more than 300 yards per game, Mallett leads the SEC with 306 yards per game.
He barely tops Newton as the conference leader in total offense per game, which is no small feat.
3. Stephen Garcia, USC
Only three quarterbacks in the country are completing a higher percentage of their passes. Garcia's passer efficiency rating is the fifth-best in the country. The only knock is his touchdown-to-interception ratio (13-to-7), but Marcus Lattimore eats up a lot of touchdowns for USC.
4. Mike Hartline, Kentucky
Gamecock fans may be the only ones in the SEC who truly appreciate Hartline, because the Wildcats' only conference win came against USC. However, in a less-than-stellar year for quarterback play in the league, his 267 passing yards per game and SEC-best 19 passing touchdowns rank high.
5. Greg McElroy, Alabama
He keeps winning. Since middle school, he has one loss as a starter. And he keeps doing it in underwhelming fashion.
McElroy is fifth in the conference in passing and has thrown three interceptions, fewest among regular starters in the league.
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray fell a few spots on this list Saturday when he finally showed he was a freshman by committing key turnovers against Florida.
Still, he has been a rare bright spot for the Bulldogs. He is fourth in the SEC in pass efficiency and has 15 touchdowns to six interceptions.
7. Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss
It's unclear if Masoli has been worth all the trouble for the Rebels, but his on-field play deserves some credit.
He hit the field with almost no preparation and has averaged 181.1 yards passing and 53.6 yards rushing per game.
8. Chris Relf, Mississippi State
Let's just say Mississippi State has not been Quarterback U. lately. Relf won't change that, but he's been serviceable. He throws for an average of 103 yards per game and is second on the team in rushing with 56.3 yards per game.
9. John Brantley, Florida
Brantley's numbers would look better if he weren't following Tim Tebow, but not much. He seems miscast at times as quarterback in the Gators' spread option offense, and he has as many interceptions as touchdowns, six.
10. Matt Simms, Tennessee
He doesn't have his father's pocket presence, but to be fair, his dad, Phil Simms, probably had a better offensive line even though he played at Morehead State. Matt Simms has eight touchdown passes but no SEC wins.
11. Larry Scott, Vanderbilt
Scott has 351 rushing yards, almost as many as starting tailback Warren Norman. And he's thrown more touchdowns than interceptions, which is more than the quarterback at Florida can say.