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SEC Media Days 2011: Hey, Coach, Where's Stephen Garcia?

Normally, the senior quarterback on a defending SEC East champion and favorite to repeat would be a shoo-in to appear at SEC Media Days. After all, team leaders and key players are supposed to be featured at the event, and the rule of thumb would suggest that a senior quarterback would be a member of either of those categories, or both. The rule doesn't account for Stephen Garcia.

And so the seemingly perpetually-suspended starting signal-caller for South Carolina was missing at SEC Media Days. But Steve Spurrier still spent a fair amount of time talking about the quarterback that Spurrier has tied his fortunes to, despite the fact that Garcia clearly annoys the head ball coach.  At least five of the questions concerned Garcia directly or indirectly, and Spurrier got off the best line in this edition of the Steve Spurrier summer road show when asked why he's so patient with the ruffian quarterback.

"I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity," he quipped to laughter, before returning to the lines that have been heard essentially every time Garcia has been reinstated. (And he has been reinstated many times.)

He's really made some lifestyle changes to stay there. Hopefully it will keep up. We just felt like he was worth giving another opportunity to sort of change his lifestyle, and thus far he's done it.

Spurrier also revealed that Garcia was offered the chance to leave South Carolina if he wanted to -- suggesting that Garcia was at least somewhat committed to seeing things through in Columbia. And also that Spurrier didn't really want to get rid of Garcia, or he would likely have not been given the choice.

But also, maybe, that it isn't just the usual Spurrier-to-Garcia message-sending when the coach insisted that Garcia is not guaranteed a job when the season resumes.

But he and Connor Shaw will battle it out a little bit. Stephen played well last year, other times not so well. He may be our best quarterback, but we're going to have a little competition in preseason this year. Connor Shaw has been a year there. We feel whoever our quarterback is, he need to go out and earn it in preseason practice.

His players are less unsure. Both Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery, the two South Carolina offensive players who did make the trip, endorsed Garcia as quarterback, a sign that his hold might not be as tenuous as Spurrier would like to suggest.

"Whoever's at quarterback, we're going to embrace them," Lattimore said. "That's going to be Garcia."