COLUMBIA — Fans keep wondering and asking when Stephen Garcia is going to vault up the quarterback depth chart and magically take over the job as South Carolina's starter.

Well, to hear coach Steve Spurrier tell it, the redshirt freshman is going the other way.

Following Saturday's scrimmage, Spurrier hinted that walk-on Zac Brindise, and not Garcia, might be considered the third-string quarterback behind Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley.

"Garcia struggled. Zac Brindise came in here and hit a couple of passes with the third group," Spurrier said. "He might be No. 3 now. If you based it on performance, he might be ahead of Garcia right now."

Garcia, coming back from a mild ankle injury, was 5-for-9 for 74 yards with an interception. Brindise, who almost transferred a couple of weeks ago, was 3 of 4 for 26 yards and a touchdown.

Considering the Floridian's off-the-field travails since arriving a year and a half ago, and the supposed cleaning up of his act, Spurrier still seems irked by Garcia's attitude and slowness to learn.

Just Friday, Garcia was the only player to miss a team breakfast.

"Oh, he's missed a bunch of them," Spurrier said Saturday. "He misses everything. He's struggling to do things right. But that's just him. He can't hardly call the play right. He gets confused. I don't know what it is. He just has a tough time."

Still, Spurrier said he hasn't given up on Garcia, who turned 20 in February.

"He's young. He's a redshirt freshman, never played," Spurrier said. "He's got some ability, though, so we're going to keep coaching him. Hopefully, he'll grow up and mature. But he struggles. He'll do some dumb things out here. ... He'll just throw it out there. But he'll learn. He'll learn. He's got talent. We've got to hang in there with him."

Garcia has yet to make himself available for comment since returning from Tampa in late July.

Jasper still hurting?

Linebacker Jasper Brinkley was only in for one play of Saturday's scrimmage before he had to come out because of his sore heel. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson described the lingering heel issue as a strained ligament.

Johnson said he expects Brinkley to play Aug. 28 against North Carolina State. Still, it's a matter of when Brinkley can get back on the practice field since the opener is approaching. Johnson did mention that Marvin Sapp is currently playing well as the first-team middle linebacker.

Additionally, safety Darian Stewart left the scrimmage with a foot injury, but neither Johnson nor Spurrier knew much about it. Stewart was on crutches as he left the field.

Taking the poll

The Gamecocks learned Saturday they'll start the year just outside the Associated Press' top 25. They're first on the also receiving votes list, the 26th team listed.

USC finished one point behind No. 25 Pitt and five points behind 24th-ranked Alabama.

"Right now, all we're really worried about is N.C. State," Anderson said. "We don't care what the polls say. When it all comes down to it, it's how many games you win or lose. We were No. 6 last year, and that's when everything fell apart."

Four of USC's opponents — No. 1 Georgia, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 LSU and No. 9 Clemson — are in the top 10.

USC was "ranked" 27th in the coaches' poll, released a couple of weeks back.

Injury report

OL Jarriel King (hamstring) returned to practice. So did WR C.C. Whitlock (knee). RB Mike Davis (shoulder) is feeling better, but still didn't participate Saturday. WR Joe Hills (toe) was out, but wasn't on crutches. ... A day after two Columbia policemen were indicted for allegedly using excessive force against him, injured OL Kevin Young again wasn't at practice.

Scrimmage stats

Passing: Tommy Beecher 9-for-14 for 89 yards; Chris Smelley 7-for-15 for 109 yards, TD, INT; Stephen Garcia 5-for-9 for 74 yards, INT; Aramis Hillary 1-for-1 for 11 yards; Reid McCollum 3-for-5 for 40 yards, INT; Zac Brindise 3-for-4 for 26 yards, TD; Michael McQueeney 0-for-1, INT.

Rushing: Eric Baker 12 carries, 32 yards; Brian Maddox 5 carries, 18 yards; Taylor Rank 9 carries, 31 yards, TD; Kenny Miles 6 carries, 27 yards.

Receiving: Freddie Brown 2 catches, 38 yards, TD; Jason Barnes 2 catches, 15 yards; Baker 1 catch, 14 yards; Weslye Saunders 1 catch, 24 yards; Jared Cook 3 catches, 54 yards; Kenny McKinley 4 catches, 35 yards; Stephen Flint 1 catch, 22 yards; Andrew Power 2 catches, 47 yards; Moe Brown 1 catch, 20 yards; C.C. Whitlock 2 catches, 38 yards; Mike Triglia 2 catches, 35 yards; Bryan Kingrey 1 catch, 2 yards, TD.

Scoring plays: Ryan Succop FGs (42, 41, 47, 27); Rank 1-yard run; Freddie Brown 15-yard pass from Smelley; Kingrey 2-yard pass from Brindise.