COLUMBIA -- Amid much pomp and circumstance, Keith Matkins arrived at the University of South Carolina last summer heralded as the Gamecocks' next savior.
Thursday, the quarterback's era in Columbia ended before it began. A source with the university said Matkins, disappointed over his role with the program, intends to transfer.
First-year coach Lou Holtz apparently was unaware of Matkins' decision.
"Keith has not indicated to me that he will attend another school this fall," Holtz said in a statement issued Thursday by the university. "It would be inappropriate for me to say anything further at this time. Anything beyond this would have to come from Keith."
Reached at his dorm in Columbia on Thursday, Matkins refused to comment. His father, Larry Matkins, said Keith will announce his decision today from Charlotte, N.C.
During his brief stint at South Carolina, Matkins fell short of the billing earned when he passed for 5,242 yards and 66 touchdowns in his last two seasons at West Charlotte High School.
Entering the Gamecocks' recently completed spring drills after having been redshirted in 1998, Matkins was expected to contend with sophomore Phil Petty for the starting spot. He boasted arguably the strongest and most accurate arm of the signal-callers, but he was plagued by his inability to grasp basic aspects of Holtz's offense, such as footwork and dropbacks.
In the Gamecocks' last week of drills on April 10-17, Petty missed extensive action thanks to a bout with the flu, and the spotlight shined on Matkins.
Instead of thrusting himself to the forefront, Matkins sank back into the fray in the wake of improved play from walk-ons Kyle Crabb and Kevin Sides.
Holtz listed Crabb, a sophomore walk-on who hasn't played a down of college football, as his No. 2 quarterback when he released his first depth chart on April 19.
"He has some trouble getting the snap on a consistent basis, and things like that," Holtz said of Matkins following the Gamecocks' spring game on April 17. "But he's got some talent, and if he'll be a student of the game, he's got a future."
Until the past few days, transferring wasn't a publicly professed option for Matkins, who grew up a fan of the Gamecocks and committed to them the summer before his senior year at West Charlotte.
"I'm really frustrated with how things are going," said Matkins after he passed for 18 yards and an interception in the spring game. "I'm having a lot of trouble with the offense, but I think I can handle it.
"I'm definitely staying here," he stressed. "I'm a Gamecock."
At the conclusion of spring drills, Holtz said Mikal Goodman, an incoming freshman from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., and the lone quarterback signee of Holtz's first recruiting class, will get an opportunity to challenge for the No. 2 spot.
Petty played in 10 games and threw 112 passes last season as Anthony Wright's backup.
Matkins' path from the university is a well-traveled one. In December 1996, quarterback Chad Barnhardt departed for South Florida in favor of more playing time. Last June, quarterback Victor Penn transferred. Both quarterbacks were expected to back up Wright, who went 1-10 in 1998, his senior year.
Matkins will be forced to sit out the 1999 season if he opts to transfer to a Division I school.
Larry Williams can be reached at (706)-823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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