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September 23, 2008

Spurrier says Garcia could play 'a bunch'

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has taken all of three snaps in his college football career.

Apparently, he's going to get a lot more snaps than that Saturday.

Looking to ignite a sputtering offense, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday the heralded freshman from Tampa, Fla., would play "a bunch" when the Gamecocks face Alabama-Birmingham (1-3) in the third of four conference matchups this season.

"I know people want to see Stephen Garcia," Spurrier said during his weekly news conference at Williams-Brice Stadium. "The only way to find out what he can do is probably let him go play, so we're definitely planning on using him a bunch and maybe start him. We'll see how it goes the next two or three practices."

Spurrier promised to reveal the entire offensive starting lineup, including the quarterback, for the UAB game on Thursday.

The Gamecocks will look to surpass the .500 mark with a win over the Blazers, the final non-conference tuneup before they move into the heart of the SEC slate. The next six contests are against SEC foes.

The stretch of games against conference competition begins Oct. 4 when South Carolina travels to Ole Miss.

Spurrier first said Garcia would get a chance to compete for the starting job during the aftermath of the Gamecocks' lethargic 23-13 victory over Wofford last Saturday night.

The Gamecocks moved the ball well at times against Wofford with quarterback Chris Smelley, generating 30 first downs and converting most of their third down chances (7-for-11). But Spurrier's bunch still struggled to score points in the red zone, settling for field goals twice after moving inside Wofford's 5-yard line. They also committed three turnovers.

Spurrier didn't rule out Garcia "going the distance," as he likes to say, against UAB on Saturday. However, with Smelley around, that's unlikely to happen.

"It depends on how it goes," Spurrier said. "(Smelley) hasn't gotten to where we hoped that he could be. That's why we're going to play Stephen. If Chris was tearing them up and doing everything we're asking him to do, shoot, there wouldn't be any question he'd be our best quarterback.

"There's a few plays here and there that, for whatever reason, the ball doesn't come out or get to where we think it's got a chance to go. Again, I don't know exactly what Stephen will do. I hope he'll perform well. I don't know what's going to happen. But we've got to turn him loose and see what happens."

Spurrier said Garcia too often in practice looks for the deep receiver immediately and doesn't work down through his progressions.

"We've got to find out, in the heat of battle, if he's just going to toss it down there," Spurrier said. "Our other quarterbacks have tossed it down there when they shouldn't. They haven't picked them out exceptionally well yet. We've got to live with (Garcia) not being perfect, of course. We need to give him a chance to see what happens."

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