College football notebook
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 8, 2011
The college football notebook…
CHAPEL HILLó Charles Brown hasnít played a game in pushing two years for North Carolina after getting caught up in the NCAA investigation into the football program.
On Saturday against Rutgers, the cornerback becomes the last player to return to the lineup for the Tar Heels following the probe into improper benefits and academic misconduct. Brown sat out all last year amid the academic half of the investigation, then missed last weekís opener against James Madison for receiving $86.94 of improper benefits from a prospective agent before last season.
ěItís real hard to keep a positive attitude, especially when you see all your peers out there playing football and youíre sitting at home ó you canít even travel with the team, you canít do the same stuff with the team,î Brown said. ěSo itís real hard to stay positive, but I did my best. … Iím still here.î
CHAPEL HILL ó The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill should hire a full-time coordinator to oversee tutors working with student-athletes and add staffers to work with students, according to a school report.
The report is an overview of the schoolís academic support services to athletes as the offices move into the new Loudermilk Center at Kenan Stadium, though the NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct made it ěeven more timely.î
It recommends hiring four or five full-time staffers to work with the 100-125 student-athletes who fall into a higher-need category. The tutor coordinator would be responsible for hiring, training and evaluating tutors, while the report suggests tutors consist more of graduate students, retired faculty or public school teachers instead of undergraduates.
COLUMBIA, S.C. ó Coming off the bench, starting ó it doesnít change how Stephen Garcia prepares.
The fifth-year South Carolina senior is once again the starting quarterback for the 12th-ranked Gamecocks after losing the job to Connor Shaw last week. Garciaís benching lasted until the second quarter against East Carolina; he entered game with the Gamecocks trailing 17-0 led them to a 56-37 victory.
His performance was enough to put him back under center when South Carolina begins defense of its Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title at Georgia on Saturday.
Garcia said heíll prepare as he usually does with the focus on football and not on the drama that seems to swirl around him.
ěThis week, itís not any different, just knowing Iím starting doesnít really make a difference,î said Garcia, who was 7 of 15 for 110 yards against East Carolina. ěIím not even thinking about last week.î
Short-term memory works best for Garcia, who has a lengthy past of problems with the Gamecocks.
Heís been suspended five times since arriving on campus, including twice this past spring ó the last time after guaranteeing in March heíd have no addition problems during his final months at South Carolina.
When Garcia was reinstated to the team by coach Steve Spurrier, athletic director Eric Hyman and university president Harris Pastides, he was told thereíd be an open quarterback competition. Spurrier said Shaw outperformed Garcia during summer workouts.
ěI donít think that was a punishment at all,î Garcia said of last weekís benching. ěAs coach stated and as I said before, Connor played better in the scrimmages and in the preseason camp.î
In the game, though, Garcia proved again to be South Carolinaís best option.
ěWhen you play the real games, thatís when it counts, thatís when it counts for everybody,î Spurrier said.
It took him five plays to score the Gamecocks first touchdown, a nifty 32-yard run that he says instantly brought him a sense of relief that he was finally back playing football.
ěMy main focus was definitely getting back with the team,î Garcia said.
Garciaís steady hand kept pushing the Gamecocks forward to victory after a first-half with four fumbles, including one by Shaw. Garcia told his sophomore backup to keep strong in the face of critics, a technique Garcia has used to blunt harsh words from fans, outsiders and even at times, his head coach.
Spurrier has criticized Garciaís work ethic, decision making and penchant for leading with his helmet instead of sliding. The coach also has praised Garcia several times since the reinstatement for his lifestyle changes and his renewed dedication on improving his play.
ěI donít think heís nervous about his first start of the year,î Spurrier said. ěNo, weíre just getting ready to play the game.î
Garcia had 3,059 passing yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He was voted to the preseason all-SEC second team with Georgia sophomore Aaron Murray on the first team. Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham thinks Garcia keeps plays alive with his running and finds ways to get the ball off to Gamecock receivers.
ěHeís a scrappy guy. Heís hard to tackle,î Grantham said. ěOn loose plays, heíll try to make things happen. He came in the other night and took them to victory. He had some big runs and did some good things.î
That was the case in last yearís game with Georgia, a 17-6 victory that set off the Gamecocks run to the SEC East title. Garcia was a very efficient 12 of 17 passing for 165 yards as South Carolina relied on freshman Marcus Lattimore to control things with a 182 yards rushing on 37 carries.