Regardless, after back-to-back 7-6 seasons, the Gamecocks are hoping Garcia can lift them to a higher level of play in 2010. Spurrier hopes so, too, but seems a bit down on his veteran quarterback in the wake of his poor performance in a 20-7 loss to UConn in the Papajohns.com bowl.
"I hope Stephen has improved on a lot of things and I hope he's had a good summer working on his fundamentals, learning the offense a little better," the ol' ball coach said. "We did not have a very good bowl game, and we're going to find out (how much he improved) when he starts playing this coming year.
"Stephen is our starter. He'll be our starter unless he's beaten out by the next quarterback."
The "next quarterback" is Connor Shaw, a mid-term freshman from Flowery Branch, Ga.
"He's a good player, been there since January, graduated early from high school," Spurrier noted. "In him and Stephen, we've got two quarterbacks coming to the ballpark ready to play."
South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco, Garcia's 2009 roommate, believes the veteran QB is ready to step up his play this fall, noting: "He understands that we're to a point where, if he doesn't do his job, we have Connor Shaw there. It's kind of been a motivation for him, pushed him a little bit to get in the film room more and run a few extra sprints."
Spurrier said when he took the Carolina job five years ago that he wanted to "change the attitude" at a school where losing had become the accepted. DiMarco sees signs of that happening. He believes the Cocks have stopped hoping to win and started expecting to win.
"I feel like our leadership is a lot better, and I think that has a lot to do with it," he said. "If you have a couple of guys bring the team down, we have leaders to say, ‘Look, we don't need that. We need a positive attitude, a positive outlook. We're trying to go somewhere.'
"We're tired of being a mediocre team. We're trying to be an SEC contender, and we feel like this year in the East we could possibly be a contender for the championship."
Given the overwhelming success Spurrier enjoyed as head coach at Florida in the 1990s, he has to be disappointed by the modest success he has achieved in Columbia. DiMarco has witnessed that disappointment first-hand.
"You see some frustration," the fullback said. "He was winning games by 40 points every other week at Florida. But we have a similar team to what he had at Florida. We have a lot of talent. Hopefully, we can win a couple of big games for him, help him roll into the next week and into the next week. Hopefully, the confidence will carry over from us to him."