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Garcia's suspension could mean more playing time for ex-Flowery Branch standout Shaw

Troubled South Carolina QB kicked off team indefinitely

POSTED: April 6, 2011 8:25 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - One young man's misfortune could mean a big opportunity for one former Hall County football standout.

South Carolina's Stephen Garcia has been indefinitely suspended from the football program, less than two weeks after the quarterback guaranteed he would not get in trouble again.

Garcia's suspension could mean significiant offseason snaps for former Flowery Branch quarterback Connor Shaw, who served as Garcia's backup last season as a true freshman.

"Right now, I'm just going into spring as the backup and waiting to see how this plays out," Shaw said. "I'm just going to continue to compete and do my part."

Shaw also said the Gamecocks' coaching staff hasn't spoken to him yet about if his role on the team is going to change. He took snaps with the first-string offense during Wednesday's final spring practice before South Carolina's spring scrimmage, which is set for Saturday.

"I felt good out there and we had a good practice," Shaw said. "I got some compliments from the coaches."

In nine games last season, Shaw completed 23 of 33 passses for 223 yards, a touchdown and interception. The dual-threat Shaw was also fourth on the team in rushing with 165 yards on 32 carries.

Garcia went 224-for-349 passing for 3,059 yards, 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed 105 times for 387 yards and six touchdowns.

Athletic director Eric Hyman announced Garcia's suspension Wednesday.

"Stephen has exhibited behavior that is unacceptable for one of our student-athletes," he said. "Therefore, he has forfeited the privilege to participate in any football related activity until further notice."

It is Garcia's fifth suspension - and second this spring - since arriving on campus in January 2007.

Garcia would not discuss the reason for the latest suspension, saying only that it did not involve an arrest, nor was it drug or alcohol related.

"I don't want to talk about it now," he said told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview.

Last month, Garcia promised his problems were behind him. He pledged to be smarter in his life and avoid the mistakes he made in previous years. Garcia was suspended for the first week of spring football practice by Spurrier for violating undisclosed team rules during South Carolina's trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"Nothing bad is going to happen again - that's guaranteed," Garcia said on March 24.

Now that it has, Garcia's future with the program is in jeopardy.

He helped the Gamecocks win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title and earn a trip to the league's championship game last fall. Garcia leads all SEC returning quarterbacks in passing yards and was expected to form a formidable offensive trio along with tailback Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Garcia has struggled to stay out of trouble throughout his career. He came to South Carolina as a highly coveted prospect, yet was arrested twice his first two month at school.

A year later, Garcia was suspended a third time and prevented from working out with the team for more than four months.

Things had calmed for him off the field the next few years until this spring.

"Every single thing I've done has been my fault," Garcia said last month.

Garcia admitted his relationship with South Carolina fans and Spurrier has been bumpy. Spurrier gave Garcia about a dozen suggestions on how to be a better quarterback and teammate. Top of that list was to cut his long hair, something Garcia immediately did.

Shaw said he has communicated with Garcia through text messages since his suspension.

"He's real discouraged, of course," Shaw said. "I asked him what was going on, because I wasn't sure about the situation, and he briefly told me he got into a little bit of trouble and he was meeting with the AD to see where it goes from there."



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