Published June 28, 2011 - 12:33pm
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The Gamecocks indeed have the pieces to take another run at the SEC East. The division is wide open. Beating the SEC West champion and having no more than one loss to make an SEC Champion from the east eligible for the BCS Championship Game is another story. To do the unlikely and contend on the big stage, quarterback Stephen Garcia must perform at a high level and bring a level of consistency to the South Carolina offense that has been lacking in years.
Even with above average talent on the offensive side of the ball, Garcia’s performance was inconsistent all year. He’d go from making plays to help his team win to fumbling the ball and getting yanked by Spurrier. His interceptions were also a major problem.
Despite his passing attempts decreasing from 432 to 349 from 2009 to 2010, Garcia’s interceptions increased from 10 to 14. It’s worth noting that his completion percentage, touchdowns and passing yards all increased from 2009 to 2010, but the interceptions were instrumental in the South Carolina losses.
Of the five losses that South Carolina registered in 2009 including the bowl game, Garcia had at least 2 interceptions in four of those games. The exception to this was the heart breaking loss to Auburn early in the season where Garcia played well and had 3 TDs with no picks.
In the key losses against Kentucky, Arkansas and Auburn (SECCG), Garcia had 2 interceptions in each game. In the debacle against Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Garcia had 3 interceptions, but we’ll let him slide on that one since he was still drunk from the night before.
For comparison purposes, Garcia had twice as many interceptions as Cam Newton (7). Ryan Mallett had 12, Greg McElroy had 5 and Aaron Murray had 8.
How does South Carolina win the East and contend for the Conference title and maybe something bigger? By getting high quality, consistent play from their quarterback. Garcia needs to manage the game, hand the ball repeatedly to Marcus Lattimore and make passes to the best receiver in the country in Alshon Jeffery. Many quarterbacks will have much more asked of them.
Can Garcia deliver? Can he avoid self-destructing in any game this season? For such a controversial athlete over the last few years, all can be redeemed in a magical run this upcoming season. It doesn’t need to be said that he has plenty of skeptics.
Garcia will lead the Gamecocks against cupcake East Carolina on September 3rd and then jump right into SEC play on the road against Georgia on September 10th.