College Sports

Gamecocks QB Garcia not bothered by Spurrier's criticism of his play

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia scrambles during the first half against Tennessee on Nov. 1.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia scrambles during the first half against Tennessee on Nov. 1.

COLUMBIA -- Some nights, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia will walk off the practice field feeling pretty good about his performance, and then he reads what coach Steve Spurrier had to say about it.

Whether critiquing Garcia's happy feet in the pocket or his inability to get the signals from the sideline, Spurrier has been harder on Garcia as the snaps for the highly touted right-hander have increased.

But Garcia says Spurrier is not singling him out or picking on him. That is Spurrier's way with all his quarterbacks.

"I think every quarterback that plays for him goes through that. But he's always competing and always trying to make everybody better," Garcia said. "You've got to respect that and honor it."

From Ben Bennett at Duke to Danny Wuerffel at Florida to Blake Mitchell at USC -- and plenty more in between -- Spurrier expects a lot from his quarterbacks. Some thrive in the intense environment; some wilt.

"You just know that's the way it is," former Florida quarterback Noah Brindise said. "I think what it makes you do is work your butts off in practice because you're judged every single play, every single throw. You're always on edge, but I think that's what makes him so great at coaching quarterbacks."

Brindise, who played for Spurrier from 1994 to 1997, said Shane Matthews was the only Gators quarterback whom Spurrier never benched due to performance -- a list that includes Wuerffel, the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner.

Some players handled the scrutiny better than others. While Brindise would go home and replay Spurrier's comments in his head, he said Rex Grossman responded well to the constructive criticism.

Brindise, whose younger brother, Zac, is a walk-on quarterback at USC, believes Garcia has the right temperament to deal with Spurrier.

"He's kind of a fun-loving, jovial kid, and things run off his back. Rex was like that," Brindise said. "Stephen seems like the type of kid that would handle it well."

In six games, including two starts, Garcia has shown off the strong arm and scrambling ability that led to rank him the nation's No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in 2006.

But on his call-in show last week, Spurrier said Garcia needs to understand the Gamecocks' offense is not the "Stephen Garcia Show." Spurrier wants Garcia to hang in the pocket longer and throw to the intended receiver rather than take off running, as he did with much success in high school.

Spurrier also seems intent on keeping Garcia grounded. In limiting Garcia's weekly media availability after games, Spurrier explained the quarterback doesn't need any publicity.

"He's not one of those that needs a lot of compliments right now," Spurrier said.

As for how Garcia is holding up under his discriminating eye, Spurrier said: "He's been good about it. He handles it pretty well. But he needs to have a stronger commitment level about everything he does, really.

"He's a work in progress, and again, he's a redshirt freshman. I've got to always keep telling (myself) he's not going to be perfect right now. Don't think he's going to be."

After starting two games in a row, Garcia found out last week he would be alternating with Chris Smelley against Arkansas. A day before the game, Jerri Spurrier, the coach's wife, met with Garcia and offered to put Garcia in touch with Grossman and other quarterbacks who played for her husband.

"She's an unbelievable lady, an unbelievable person," Garcia said. "It was pretty big. It was kind of frustrating (last) week. She definitely helped me out a lot."

Steve Spurrier believes Garcia, who was suspended for the past two spring practices, has a chance to be a successful quarterback when he learns the nuances of his offense. In the meantime, Garcia can expect more blunt teaching moments with Spurrier.

"Every quarterback that plays for him at one point or another is going to get his treatment, so to speak," Brindise said. "I just think it's Stephen's time, but for good reason. (Spurrier) doesn't think he's far enough along with what's going on.

"There comes a time in your career when you play for Coach when times are going to get a little bit tough."

Garcia said he understands that and believes he will be the better for it.

"He's tough on me, but he's coaching me and I'm just taking it," Garcia said. "He's coaching me, and I'm trying to learn as much as possible."

• Who: South Carolina Gamecocks (7-3, 4-3 SEC) at Florida Gators (8-1, 6-1), 3:30 p.m.

• TV: CBS (Comporium Cable channel 7 in Rock Hill

• Radio: WRHM-FM (107.1, 94.3)