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September 7, 2008

Spurrier may use two-QB system

After watching the South Carolina offense sputter for two games behind two different quarterbacks, coach Steve Spurrier said he's contemplating changes to the offensive lineup - starting with the QBs.

While the faces at quarterback won't change Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley remain atop the depth chart they could split playing time in a true two-quarterback system when the Gamecocks square off with No. 2 Georgia in a CBS nationally televised contest Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

It's not a perfect situation in Spurrier's eyes, but one dictated by the circumstances. Neither quarterback has taken a firm grasp of the position.

"We were hoping that (one QB would seize the job) would happen in the first game of the season, and for whatever reason it didn't happen," Spurrier said. "It didn't quite happen in the second game either. There's nothing wrong with having two quarterbacks. In my entire coaching career, if you have two that are pretty close in ability, you play both of them.

"Some people say you can't play two (quarterbacks), but we've won with two guys before. I don't prefer to do that, but when you have two players playing very similarly, there's nothing wrong with doing that. We'll see how the season goes. Hopefully, one of the two will really play well and we won't have to keep doing this."

Florida won the 2000 SEC Championship with Rex Grossman and Jesse Palmer sharing the quarterbacking duties, Spurrier noted.

Beecher made his first career start against N.C. State Aug. 28 and lasted nearly three quarters. He left the contest after suffering shoulder and head injuries when he was tackled hard on a scramble play.

Beecher had completed 12-of-22 passes for 106 yards with four interceptions when he departed. Smelley took over early in the fourth quarter and completed all five of his passes for 92 yards while leading USC to three touchdowns.

Beecher is close to 100 percent healthy, Spurrier said.

"He didn't practice much last week, but at the (Vanderbilt) game he could have played if we had needed him," Spurrier said.

With Beecher unable to practice much during the week, Smelley went the distance in Thursday's 24-17 loss at Vanderbilt. Smelley completed 23 of 39 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

But he missed several open receivers and threw two costly interceptions inside the VU 40-yard line. The turnovers proved costly in the outcome.

In two games, Smelley has connected on 63.6 percent of his passes (28 of 44) for 325 yards and four touchdowns, compiling a QB rating of 146.59.

"There's certainly something (Smelley) could have done better," Spurrier said. "And Tommy could have done better in the first game. That's why we're still searching to see who our best quarterback is. We're looking at them pretty close right now. We're looking at them as being pretty even."

Don't look for redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia, the No. 3 quarterback, to move up the depth chart anytime soon. Spurrier said the heralded prospect from Tampa, Fla., is not ready to take the reins during a game.

"Stephen is still learning the plays," Spurrier said. "We're coaching him all the time, though. He'll get a few reps here and there. Monday night, we let the young guys scrimmage, so he'll get some scrimmage time. He's getting a lot of coaching. When his chance comes, hopefully, he'll be ready."

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