Earlier Thursday, we asked if Steve Spurrier really wanted to open the door and invite in the kind of quarterback controversy that could hamstring his team's preparation for its make-or-break Week 2 visit to Georgia--if not sink its entire season. Apparently, that answer is yes.
Spurrier announced early Thursday evening that he would employ a planned quarterback rotation for the Gamecocks' season opener against East Carolina, with true sophomore Connor Shaw starting and senior Stephen Garcia entering the game at the start of the second quarter. The decision will end Garcia's streak of 28 consecutive starts.
Though much immediate speculation has focused on whether the decision is a belated punishment for Garcia's fifth career suspension this past spring, Spurrier told reporters (including CBSSports.com's Josh Kendall) it was as straightforward as Shaw winning the start in practice:
"I said we are going to have a preseason competition to see who the starter is going to be. The guy who rated the best was Connor Shaw. He played better than Stephen Garcia, simple as that so he’s going to start the game."While Shaw may have done the better job in the "preseason competition" he will nonetheless enter the East Carolina matchup with substantially less experience that the fifth-year senior Garcia. Shaw appeared in nine games as 2010 true freshman but threw just 33 passes. Though Shaw did complete an impressive 70 percent of those, his most meaningful snaps came late in Carolina's first tense meeting with Auburn, when he threw two interceptions in eight passes.
As for who gets the call against the Bulldogs in Athens, Spurrier has said it would come down to who played better against the Pirates this Saturday in Charlotte. But if neither decisively outplays the other, the quarterback position could prove to be a major headache as the following week advances.
Steve Spurrier has, of course, forgotten more about quarterback coaching than we'll ever know. But this is nonetheless the sort of decision -- coming as it does on the eve of the Gamecocks' most anticipated season in program history -- that will open him to major, major criticism if it backfires on he and his team.