QB quandary

The Maestro of Musical Quarterbacks is at it again ... this time more by necessity than by design.

Two months ago South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier seemed to have a stable pecking order at QB for 2008. Talented but troubled Stephen Garcia was supposed to be No. 1, with experienced but erratic Chris Smelley No. 2 and little-used Tommy Beecher No. 3.

Garcia got the shuffling started when he was suspended until at least mid-August following a second alcohol-related police incident in 12 months. Smelley then added to the chaos by throwing five interceptions in the spring game.

That means Beecher, projected as the No. 3 quarterback at the start of spring practice, will enter preseason drills in August as the No. 1 guy. Spurrier conceded as much during a recent speech to a booster group, noting that the rising junior has "the talents and smarts" to succeed, even though he has seen almost no meaningful action in his first three seasons at Columbia.

Smelley, who started six games in 2007, completed 13 of 30 passes for 219 yards in the Garnet & Black Game. He threw three touchdown passes but also threw the five afore-mentioned picks. Beecher was 9 of 20 for 131 yards but tossed three interceptions of his own, one of which was returned 82 yards for a touchdown.

Bottom line: Look for Spurrier to change quarterbacks in 2008 the way baseball managers change pitchers.

If South Carolina can develop a productive offense, it could be very good because the Gamecocks return a bunch of quality defensive players. Most notable among them are linebacker Jasper Brinkley, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Emmanuel Cook.

The Ol' Ball Coach made headlines last August by announcing that his team was ready to compete for the SEC Championship. That bold pronouncement appeared accurate when Carolina won six of its first seven games and soared to No. 6 in the Associated Press national poll.

The Gamecocks imploded thereafter, however, dropping their last five games in a row, including a gut-wrenching 27-24 overtime loss at Tennessee.

Has Spurrier learned his lesson? Apparently not. He's talking title again, although he's a little more vague regarding his timetable these days.

"Our goal is to win the SEC. It hasn't changed," he told the booster group. "We're looking forward the next three or four years of competing and hopefully winning that game in Atlanta real soon."

Unless he can stabilize his quarterback situation, Spurrier's best shot at making Atlanta next winter will be as a participant in the Chick fil-A Bowl.


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