Garcia talks spring practice

The most interesting and talked about position battle for the Gamecocks this spring is the three-way race at quarterback between Tommy Beecher, Chris Smelley, and Stephen Garcia, the redshirt freshman from Tampa, Fl. Following Carolina's first practice of the spring, Garcia spoke to the media about the competition, the fans, and his hair.


Although it is the least important part of his game, everyone seems to want to talk about Garcia's hair. While speaking to reporters, there were more questions asked about his hair, which hangs down past his shoulders, than about his passing, his mobility, or his experiences in Columbia. Even Steve Spurrier, who once said he hoped a defender would tackle Garcia by his hair so Garcia would decide to cut it, weighed in on the matter.

"[Spurrier] just told me it's getting a little long. He told me to trim it up a little bit, so I'm going to have to do that," said Garcia. "I don't really want to, but I've got to do it."

Garcia redshirted last season, meaning this is his first chance to actually compete for playing time rather than worry about his hair. Of the three quarterbacks battling to become the starter, Garcia is the only one without any collegiate playing experience. Smelley started six games last season, and Beecher threw passes in three games, all while Garcia worked on the scout team. However, Garcia comes to Carolina with far more hype than the other two. If you combine the hype with the fact that nobody has seen Garcia take a snap in a college game, he is the fan favorite to win the job. At the beginning of spring practice, though, Garcia isn't ready to name himself the frontrunner, calling one of his passes a "fiasco."

"It went well with the exception of a couple throws," he said. "I expected to do a little bit better than I did, but it was the first practice, first spring practice, I've had. As far as the quarterbacks and receivers are concerned, we've got to get a little bit more gelled. I'm still learning every single day. I'm probably going to be learning until I graduate, that's the beauty of it."

Garcia said he expects a "pretty strong competition" between the three quarterbacks. He noted that the trio gets along well both on and off the field, and he thinks that camaraderie will benefit the Gamecocks. He also noted that since it is just spring practice, whoever loses out now will have plenty of opportunity to redeem himself later.

"We're all pretty good friends off the field and on the field as well, always encouraging each other," said Garcia. "We're also trying to beat each other out, so it's a friendly competition. I think [starting] is all three of our goals, but whoever gets the job, I'm sure all of us are going to encourage him and try to help the team win. That means absolutely nothing. Last year Blake (Mitchell) was the starter after spring, and then Smelley took over, and Blake ended up getting it back again. The key is, whoever's playing good, that's who is going to start."

Although it is his first time taking parting in the spring with the Gamecocks, Garcia was on campus last spring. He enrolled in January of 2007 planning to get an early start on his Carolina career. Instead, he quickly found trouble, getting arrested twice and then suspended for the entirety of spring practice. Although he will have to miss one day of practice this week due to poor class attendance, Garcia has mostly avoided any trouble since those early incidents. He candidly admits that his mistakes delayed his Carolina career, and he appreciates the fans giving him a second chance.

"I knew it would come eventually, I just wish it would have happened last year," he said. "The fans have been decent about it. I haven't heard anything about it, so that's good. I appreciate it."


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