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May 11, 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Steve Spurrier, Jr. is the wide receivers coach for South Carolina, but he knows which player will shape the next two or three years of Gamecocks football.
"The next two years of our program are definitely in Stephen Garcia's hands," Spurrier Jr. told the Jacksonville Gamecock Club on Monday night. "We're expecting him to play well and we need him to play well. We think he can. He had a good spring. We think he's matured enough. We have to have a quarterback playing at the highest level. If we have a quarterback that can play well, we can get to that nine- or 10-win level. It can mean the difference in three of four games every year.
"We've put a lot in Stephen Garcia's hands and we think he's ready to handle it. If he can play well, we believe we have a team that can achieve something."
Spurrier praised quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus for "doing a great job" handling Garcia in his first four months on the job after joining the Gamecocks from Middle Tennessee.
"He's been an excellent addition to our staff," Spurrier Jr. said. "When my dad hired him, he said this is the guy that's going to be in charge of babysitting Stephen. That's an important job. We think Stephen can ... come into his own and really lead us to become the team we think we can be."
One of Garcia's most important functions next season is minimizing turnovers, Spurrier Jr. said. South Carolina had 38 last season, including 27 interceptions, most in the nation.
"We don't need to struggle as much as we have turning the ball over," Spurrier Jr. said. "We've been awful with turnovers. We've really struggled on offense and my dad isn't very happy about it. We think we have the quarterback that's coming to do the things we signed him to do. We don't need to get into close games and lose them."
While Mangus was hired as quarterbacks coach during the offseason, the coach ultimately responsible for Garcia's development into a SEC quality quarterback is, of course, coach Steve Spurrier. His son assured the gathering that his father has lost none of his renowned competitive fire despite the late-season struggles the last two seasons. Winning the SEC championship remains the ultimate goal.
"Without a doubt, he strives for that and lives for that," Spurrier, Jr. said. "He knows that's a memory of a lifetime. He's constantly holding our guys to that level and he's constantly pursuing that goal. That's a goal we feel we can accomplish. He's a driven, competitive guy. We're going to fight until we get there.
"He hates losing and he hates finishing the way we've finished the last couple of years. It grinds at him."