AUBURN AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Backup quarterback Connor Shaw #14 of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks to pass against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
After a week of deliberation, Steve Spurrier has named Connor Shaw as the starting QB for the ECU game, breaking Stephen Garcia's 28-game starting streak. Spurrier cited Shaw's superior performance in fall camp as his reason. Despite Shaw's apparent improvement, the move undoubtedly comes as a huge, shocking surprise to almost everybody.
I'm going to keep this short, as I also have a preview to write tonight, but I think this is a questionable move by Spurrier, to say the least. In my opinion, the only situation in which it makes sense to start Shaw is if Shaw has clearly proven that he's the better QB. If Garcia is better, you start him. If they're even, you give your fifth-year senior the start and then give Shaw some chances to distinguish himself over the course of the season. Of course, if Shaw really is better, that's another matter. However, while I've not been able to observe much of fall practice, from where I'm sitting, I've seen very little to suggest that that's the case. Shaw wasn't overly impressive in the spring game, and while he's had some good practices this fall, Garcia has had some that were similarly impressive. My gut feeling is that Shaw is nipping at Garcia's heels, but that Garcia still holds a slight advantage due to his experience and familiarity with the offense. Unfortunately, I think this is a gambit on Spurrier's part to motivate Garcia to prepare himself for the Georgia game, and perhaps, even, to throw the Dawgs off somehow. And frankly, with Garcia's already fragile psyche in the balance and a dangerous ECU team just waiting to spring an upset on us, I think it's a poorly planned gambit.
That said, I'm holding out hope that Shaw really has improved significantly since last spring. It's certainly possible. Shaw is a good student of the game, he undoubtedly applied himself over the summer, and I think one place where he probably does excel over Garcia is in his ability to run the read-option. I expect you'll see that Spurrier won't test Shaw's arm too much if he doesn't have to; he'll see if Shaw and Marcus Lattimore can carve up ECU's rushing defense. Let's hope that works. And let's hope when it comes time to test young Connor's arm that he's up to the task.