COLUMBIA — Steve Spurrier is calling a quarterback shuffle for No. 18 South Carolina, with sophomore Connor Shaw replacing inconsistent senior Stephen Garcia.
After hinting at the move since Saturday’s 16-13 loss to Auburn, Spurrier made it official after Monday’s practice.
“As most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped, and we’ve got to do something,” he said.
The Gamecocks (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) seemed set at the position with Garcia, a fifth-year starter who had a breakout year in 2010 as he passed for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns in helping the Gamecocks reach their first SEC championship game.
Garcia hasn’t come close to that production this fall. His completion percentage has dropped from 64 percent last year to 51 percent. He’s thrown nine interceptions and just four touchdowns in South Carolina’s first five games.
Garcia was 9 of 23 for 160 yards and two interceptions against an Auburn pass defense that came in ranked last in the SEC.
“It wasn’t that hard a call,” Spurrier said. “At some point, we’ve got to do something to shake up this offense, and this is the first step.”
Garcia has been suspended five times in his college career, including twice this spring.
Spurrier said Garcia took the news well.
“I think he anticipated it,” the coach said.
Garcia was not available to the media after practice.
It’s not the first time this season Spurrier has given Shaw a chance to start. Spurrier ended Garcia’s streak of 28 consecutive starts by opening with Shaw in the first game of the season against East Carolina.
Shaw and the Gamecocks struggled to make plays and, trailing 17-0, Spurrier sent in Garcia. The senior showed his experience in rallying South Carolina to a 56-37 victory.
Spurrier said after beating the Pirates that Garcia was South Carolina’s quarterback. But he realized something had to change after the Auburn loss, when the Gamecocks had a season-low 289 yards of offense, and that led to Shaw.
“This is his game. It’s his opportunity to go play and we think he’s ready,” Spurrier said. “We’re going to find out Saturday.”
Shaw has seen limited action since East Carolina. He thinks he’s prepared for another chance.
“It’s an opportunity I’m willing to take advantage of. I think I’m ready to play,” he said.