In a rarity during a practice week, South Carolina starting Quarterback Stephen Garcia met with the media following a rainy practice Wednesday afternoon. Garcia has come under fire due in part to two fumbles in Saturday's loss to Auburn, but more so his tendency to drop his head and take on defenders head-on. Coach Steve Spurrier has told Garcia that he won't be playing much longer if he continues to drop his head. Garcia said that has been part of his main focus during practice this week, along with getting rid of the ball.
"Getting the ball out of my hands out of bounds or to a receiver, and getting down on the ground," Garcia said. "That's pretty much what I've been focusing on right now."
Garcia says his habit of dropping his head dates back to his high school days at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fl. Any bad habit is hard to break, and Garcia says that it's even harder to keep from doing it to brace for impact when running towards an SEC-caliber defensive lineman.
"It's just a hard habit to get out of," Garcia said. "You see a bunch of 260-pound guys coming at you it's hard to just run with your face straight up. I'm gonna try and work on it and I just gotta get on the ground. That's just what I've got to start doing - avoid the hits."
Spurrier got on Garcia's case early in his career for sliding and losing a yard or two as a result of the slide. Instead, Spurrier wanted his quarterbacks to fall forward. That apparently has gotten Garcia back into the habit of dropping his head, which has also drawn negative comments from Spurrier and has many confused on what exactly Spurrier wants Garcia to do. Garcia says that Spurrier just doesn't want his head to drop when falling forward.
"He doesn't want me to put my head down," Garcia said. "I guess he says my head is too far down when I'm running into traffic, but I think it's gonna be pretty hard for me to slide. That's just not the kind of person I am, but I guess we'll find out."
One thing that Garcia has never been questioned for is his toughness. In the season-opener against Southern Miss, Garcia opened the scoring by lowering his head to run over a USM defensive back en route to the end zone on a 22-yard run. Garcia later took on two Southern Miss defenders head-on on a 3-yard touchdown run. That works when you're facing a Conference USA defense. It doesn't work as well when you're running at an SEC linebacker. After avoiding the grasp of an Auburn lineman in the backfield during the third quarter of Saturday's game, Garcia took off down-field and tried to take Auburn linebacker Daren Bates head-on. The result was a lost fumble and Garcia getting his bell rung.
"The first one, definitely (hurt)," Garcia said. "But just for a couple of minutes."
On the next Gamecock possession, Garcia fumbled again and was removed from the game. Spurrier mentioned after Tuesday's practice that he didn't have a conversation with Garcia following his second fumble. Garcia said no one thought to mention to him that he was being removed from the game. He didn't know until he saw Conner Shaw take the field.
"When I saw Conner going in," Garcia said with a laugh when realizing he had been taken out of the game. "It kinda caught me off guard but that's in the past. I'm not really worried about that anymore."
Spurrier has a history dating back to his Florida days of playing musical quarterback, switching quarterbacks in a moment's notice. In Garcia's freshman season, Spurrier did the same with Garcia, Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley, but Garcia was normally the guy taking over. After being the man all season in 2009, Spurrier has played both quarterbacks in three of the first four games in 2010. However, Saturday night's game was the first time it was based on mistakes by Garcia. Garcia says that's not something he'll ever get used to.
"I don't think anybody would get used to that," Garcia said. "It definitely hurt and I didn't really like it happening but that's what happened. I can't fumble twice and that's the main reason I got taken out. I've just got to play better and smarter."
Barring any injuries or unforeseen circumstances, Garcia will still be under center when the Gamecock offense takes the field next week against Alabama. Anytime a quarterback is pulled from the game, losing confidence in himself is always a risk. Garcia says he's still confident in what he can do on the field.
"It's pretty good," Garcia said of his confidence. "All the guys on the team talk to me and they've all got my back. We're gonna be just fine. We've got a nice bye week this week to get ready for Alabama and we'll be ready for them."
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