"That's the challenge," Spurrier said. "To have that big year in South Carolina."
And it all rests on Stephen Garcia.
Spurrier's teams have won 28 games in four years at South Carolina, the best four-season run in school history. His teams have beaten SEC heavyweights and he has elevated the program from the depths of insignificance. Yet that all pales in comparison to the bar he set for himself and any of his teams:
Spurrier hasn't won a championship — and he hasn't found a quarterback.
This is where Garcia, South Carolina's talented yet enigmatic quarterback, enters the picture. The guy who recently made it through his first spring practice in three tries because he couldn't stay out of trouble, is the key to that "big year." The guy who threw three interceptions in last year's Outback Bowl loss to Iowa and looked lost against a mid-level Big Ten team, is the difference between the Gamecocks competing for an East Division championship or finding a way to win seven games. Again.
"I feel good about where we are," Garcia said this spring.
He might be the only one. Spurrier, for one, isn't buying it. At least not yet.
As well as Garcia played this spring, he must make it through the summer — a stretch of months that made guys like Dave Brown at Duke and Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Rex Grossman at Florida. Guys who, after investing time and effort when no one was watching, saw it all play out in the fall in front of packed stadiums.
His first two years on campus, Garcia couldn't get it right away from the field and was kicked out of school for repeated brushes with the law. He somehow found his way back by completing more than 175 hours of community service — "Some of our coaches," Spurrier said, "said he'd never be able to do that" — and humbly working his way back.
His wild hair shaved, his free spirit tamed, Garcia is ready to be what Spurrier hasn't been able to find since arriving in Columbia on the heels of Lou Holtz — who said he couldn't change the "culture of losing" at the school.
In four years, Spurrier has had quarterbacks who couldn't make good decisions (Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley, Tommy Beecher), and one who couldn't throw (Syvelle Newton).
Wouldn't you know it, the one who couldn't throw wound up being the most efficient of them all. It was Newton's running, his ability to be a dynamic dual threat and expand Spurrier's pass-happy offense, that made recruiting Garcia so intriguing.
But because of his problems off the field — he missed two spring drills (30 practices) and one season redshirting — Garcia's development hasn't been nearly as quick as needed. He still makes high school mistakes: still tries to scramble at the first sign of pressure, still doesn't go through progressions, still doesn't feel the nuances of the game.
But he has a big arm, can make all the throws and can do damage in the running game. In a perfect world, Garcia is beginning his third season as a starter and as a poor man's Tim Tebow. And a young team built around three consecutive strong recruiting classes is on the verge of something special.
Instead, Spurrier spent much of his time here at the SEC spring meetings responding to questions about how much longer he'll coach, and if his tenure at South Carolina is starting to take the shine away from all he accomplished at Florida.
"I can't worry about how people remember me," Spurrier said. "Whatever I did at Duke is history, at Florida is history. We're still trying to make history at South Carolina."
This may be his hardest gig yet.
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Video: Football from NBC Sports
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