Spurrier, Gamecocks deal with crazy spring
Basketball's best player came out for football. The quarterback was suspended twice. And South Carolina's head ball coach was handcuffed by the Columbia police chief with TV cameras rolling.
It was certainly a crazy, drama-filled spring for Steve Spurrier and Gamecock football.
Spurrier had hoped his rising team could build on the strides it took last year in reaching its first Southeastern Conference championship. Instead, it was almost a daily dose of issues for the Gamecocks.
It began with the first of two suspensions for starting quarterback Stephen Garcia and continued with the basketball team's leading scorer, Bruce Ellington, deciding to come out for football next fall.
In between came the bizarre scene of Spurrier in handcuffs, the coach's springtime skit after top recruit Jadeveon Clowney was briefly cuffed and detained by Columbia police.
''Anyway, we're headed to the offseason,'' Spurrier said after his final practice of spring Thursday. ''We've got a long way to go.''
Especially at quarterback, where Connor Shaw is the new No. 1 with Garcia out indefinitely after his second suspension of the spring.
Garcia began practice sidelined for violating team rules on South Carolina's trip to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. When the quarterback returned a week later, he promised his senior year would be a smooth one.
''Nothing bad is going to happen again - that's guaranteed,'' Garcia said on March 24.
But last week came notice that Garcia was suspended indefinitely by athletic director Eric Hyman for ''behavior that is unacceptable for one of our student-athletes.''
There is no timetable to decide on a possible return for Garcia.
On Thursday, Hyman said it was more important for Garcia to focus on his studies and graduation in May than worrying about football. ''Stephen is working on focusing on himself,'' Hyman said. ''Hopefully, in time he'll be in a better place.''
Garcia threw for 3,059 yards a year ago, the most of any SEC returning quarterback.
That leaves Spurrier working with sophomore-to-be Shaw, who saw action in nine games last year in mostly mop-up situations.
''It's disappointing because we've had to throw a whole bunch. I keep asking Connor, 'Your arm's not sore, is it?''' Spurrier said. ''That's what they have to do if they're ever going to throw it real well around here.''
Whoever lines up under center will likely have a fleet new receiver in Ellington, the player basketball coach Darrin Horn had built South Carolina's future around.
Ellington was a state championship quarterback at Berkeley High, but put those skills aside when agreed to play only basketball. But after a 14-16 freshman season, Ellington was ready to try football again - a decision that threw fans already upset over Horn's season into full-throated calls for change.
Spurrier and Ellington have both said the athlete will continue to play for both teams, joining basketball after football's regular season.
Perhaps the craziest scene came on March 25, hours after city police had briefly detained Clowney, the country's top college prospect who signed with the Gamecocks last February.
In the middle of a routine post-practice interview, Chief Randy Scott stepped in.
''Coach, can I see you for a second please?'' the police chief asked.
''You sure?'' Spurrier replied as he was led several feet away, frisked and handcuffed by the police chief. Seconds later, he was released.
There was a robbery at a convenience store, Spurrier quipped.
''One of the witnesses said it looked like the head ball coach of South Carolina, so I had to tell him that I didn't leave practice all day today,'' he said. ''So (Scott) said it was OK.''
Spurrier said the demonstration showed it was ''no big deal'' to be handcuffed by police, who he said were just doing their jobs. Clowney had done nothing wrong, Scott said, and was quickly released.
With spring practice over, Spurrier said it was up to his players to put in the work to improve before reconvening in August. ''Some guys do it, some guys drink beer all summer,'' he said.