Published July 28, 2011 - 6:49am
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Stephen Garcia has been up and down throughout his career in Columbia. He was a highly sought after prospect from the Tampa, Florida area, and he has one more year to tack onto his seemingly rollercoaster-like career.
Garcia has usually put up good numbers on the stat sheet; however, there are plenty of critics to point out his lack of success at Carolina under a great offensive mind in Steve Spurrier and his brushes with the law. The physical tools are there, but the mental aspect of the game is what I worry about most – particularly the fact he can be a knucklehead sometimes and doesn’t think about ramifications before he puts himself into a situation.
However, all of that can somewhat be nullified if he can answer his critics this year with a very good year and a clean record. I like Garcia, and I am rooting for him to leave fans with a good overall taste in their mouths for the remainder of his career at Carolina.
Let’s face it, in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately conference, formally known as the SEC, fans are willing to forgive and forget rather quickly if winning is part of the solution.
Here are five ways Stephen Garcia can silence his critics in 2011:
No. 1 Come To Play Every Week
Coming to play each and every week is not too much to ask, is it? We all know Garcia allegedly showed up to last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl hung over from a massive binge the night before in his hotel room (South Carolina or the highway patrol would not confirm the story). If Garcia comes to play every game this year, he will be tough to beat. The physical tools are there, along with the toughness; he knows the offense; now, USC needs him to step up and be the leader they recruited from high school. There are no more excuses.
No. 2 Limit The Turnovers
In 2010, Stephen Garcia led the SEC with 14 interceptions, a number that is way too high to be productive and that shows inconsistency. Of the five games the Gamecocks lost in 2010, Garcia had at least two interceptions in four of those games. So, the turnovers and the inconsistencies have to be limited in 2011 if USC wants to make a legitimate run in the East. Garcia has to swallow the pride and check down to his secondary receivers, namely his running back Marcus Lattimore. Steve Spurrier is dying to see Garcia take that next step and really manage the game better overall.
No. 3 Lead The SEC In Passing
In my mind there is a better than average chance Stephen Garcia has the opportunity to lead the SEC in passing – not just the East but the entire SEC. Will he do it? Who knows, but he certainly has the talent around him to help get him in that position. His best year was last year in 2010, when he threw for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, I think the Gamecock nation knows that in order to live up to their team’s lofty expectations, Garcia must elevate his play. In order to lead the SEC in passing, Spurrier, Garcia and his receivers will all have to be on the same page. This will be Garcia’s fifth year in the offense, and I can only assume he knows it backwards and forwards.
No. 4 Lead USC To Another East Championship
USC received its first-ever SEC East regular season championship in 2010. They will try and duplicate that this season. Florida, Tennessee and Georgia have numerous question marks, so the East is ready for the taking. There will always be criticism, but Garcia can answer some of that by winning the SEC East again this year. The pieces are all in place, but Garcia will be at the center of it all at his quarterback position.
No. 5 Win His Final Bowl Game
Going out on top is the way every player wants to leave his college career, but few get to go out like that. The Gamecocks were smacked last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl by Florida State, and it seemingly put a negative light on everything they accomplished in a single year for the program. Garcia most definitely wants to go out on top for the Gamecocks this coming season, and he has an opportunity for fans to participate in a special ending to 2011 depending on how the season progresses and the bowl game in which the Gamecocks find themselves.
South Carolina is set up to make a tremendous run this coming football season. On offense, they have arguably the best running back in the SEC, the best wide receiver in the country and a head coach who knows what he is doing. The defense is not too shabby either.
However, in order for the season to live up to its lofty expectations, quarterback Stephen Garcia must show up to play every day and want to get better. He is known for his tough running ability and standing tall when the pocket is collapsing; so the physical tools are there, but he needs to get right mentally.
If Garcia shows up and wants to get better every single day, the rest of the pieces should fall right into place.