Following yet another abysmal performance under center by Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier strongly hinted that a change at the position could be coming sooner rather than later.
Monday evening, the hint became a reality as Spurrier announced he has pulled the trigger on another quarterback change, with Connor Shaw replacing Garcia against Kentucky this weekend. And, barring injury, Spurrier’s intention, at least for now, is to allow the sophomore to go the distance against the Wildcats.
“This is his game, it’s his opportunity to go play and we think he’s ready,” Spurrier said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’re going to find out Saturday. Connor had a good practice tonight and, as most everyone knows, our quarterback play has not been as good as we hoped. We’ve got to do something. Maybe some other positions we’re looking at also.
“We’re looking forward to the game against Kentucky. I just ask all the Gamecock fans to give Connor your support the same way you have all the others players here. I think he’s ready to play well. It wasn’t that hard a call. At some point we have to do something to shake up this offense and this is the first step. We’ll see how it goes. It’s Connor’s game. Unless he gets hurt, this is his game.”
Shaw started the opener this season, but was replaced by Garcia after the Gamecocks fell behind East Carolina. Garcia, who had been the starter for the past two-plus season, started each of the next four games, but struggled mightily, throwing just four touchdowns versus nine interceptions. He’s 109th in the country in passing efficiency.
As ineffective and mistake-prone as Garcia has been, Spurrier had no choice but to go back to his Game 1 starter.
“It’s an opportunity I’m willing to take advantage of,” said Shaw. “I think I’m ready to play. I’m excited and we’ll see how it goes this Saturday. I feel confident and I feel like I’m ready to play.”
Vernon Hargreaves wasn’t retained by the new coaching staff in Fayetteville, but he’ll end up remaining in the SEC anyway.
Missouri confirmed Thursday that Hargreaves has been hired by Barry Odom and added to the second-year head coach’s staff. The veteran assistant will serve as Odom’s inside linebackers coach.
“I’ve known Vernon for a number of years and have always respected the way his position plays the game,” said Odom in a statement distributed by the school. “He will be a great teacher and mentor for our student-athletes. His experience will be so valuable for our program; I’m excited about Vernon and his family joining our Mizzou family.”
Hargreaves spent the past three seasons as the linebackers coach at Arkansas. Most notably, he served in the same capacity at Miami from 1998-2005.
Hargreaves also spent time on staffs at Houston (2013-14), South Florida (2010-12), East Carolina (2007-09), Florida International (2006) and UConn (1985-97). He was also the special teams coordinator at USF and ECU in addition to being a position coach.
As Willie Taggart constructs his first coaching staff at Florida State, he’s added yet another familiar face.
Taggart, FSU announced earlier Thursday, has hired Telly Lockette as the Seminoles’ tight ends coach. Lockette had spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Oregon State.
Prior to that, Lockette was a member of Taggart’s coaching staff at USF as running backs coach for two seasons and maintains deep ties to the fertile recruiting soil of South Florida.
“I’ve known Coach Lockette for a long time and am excited he is joining our staff at Florida State,” Taggart said. “He was an important part of my first staff at South Florida and has gained Power 5 experience with his last three seasons in the Pac-12. Coach Lockette is a tremendous recruiter and coach who does a phenomenal job developing student-athletes on and off the field. While we were at South Florida he was the primary recruiter for the Miami area and helped us sign a number of impact players, including Quinton Flowers, Khalid McGee and Deatrick Nichols. His expertise will benefit our current and future Seminoles.”
The job with Taggart at USF was Lockette’s first at any level of college football. The first 10 years of his coaching career were spent at the high school level, including a five-year stint at Miami Central from 2008-12.
Almost without fail, it pays to have your name circulating through the annual churning of the coaching rumor mill.
The latest example is David Gibbs, with the Texas Tech defensive coordinator being rumored as a target for the same job with Herm Edwards at Arizona State over the past few days. Fast-forward to Thursday night, and Tech announced that it has finalized a new two-year contract extension with Gibbs. The coordinator is now signed through the 2019 season.
According to the school, Gibbs’ pay will be bumped from $550,000 per year to $650,000. That number puts Gibbs right in the middle of Big 12 DC pay.
“We are fortunate to have one of the top defensive coordinators in the country in Coach Gibbs,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a release. “Since the conclusion of the regular season, finalizing this new contract to keep Coach Gibbs at Texas Tech has been a priority for myself and [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt]. We look forward to continuing to build one of the nation’s top defenses in the years to come under Coach Gibbs.”
Long a punchline, the Red Raiders’ defense has steadily improved in the three years under Gibbs. This season, their 27 takeaways led the Big 12 and are the most in a season for the football program since 2008. They’re also currently seventh in the country with four defensive touchdowns.
With Gibbs back, he’ll have 10 returning starters with which to work next season.
“There isn’t a better person to work for than Kliff Kingsbury, and I’m looking forward to continue building this program with him,” Gibbs said. “There is still plenty of work that needs to be done, but I’m excited about the future of our team.”
Sometimes the personnel gods giveth, and sometimes the personnel gods taketh away.
Thursday evening, West Virginia announced that quarterback Will Grier will return to Morgantown for the 2018 season. Not long after, the same football program confirmed that Justin Crawford has decided to eschew playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Instead of preparing for Utah in the postseason, the senior running back will instead begin preparations for the 2018 NFL draft.
“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Crawford has led the Mountaineers in rushing each of the past two seasons. He’s the first WVU player to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008-09.
After finishing third in the Big 12 this season with 1,061 yards on the ground, he was named second-team all-conference for the second straight season. Following the 2016 season, he earned the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor.