If Connor Shaw told me something, I'd believe it. Anything. Except one thing, that is.
I don't believe him to be an accurate reporter of whether he's 100%.
Now let me be crystal clear. I'm not calling Connor a liar, nor am I calling him out. I don't even believe it to be a character flaw. I like that the coach's son from Flowery Branch, Georgia is a gamer. I think he is one of the gutsiest guys whose ever lined up under center for the Garnet and Black. He exemplifies team-first spirit; his can-do attitude makes him a winner. He's one of those guys that's always ready to go. He doesn't know how not to be ready to go - it's essential to his character. Heck, against ECU he kept his helmet on the whole game.
How can you not love that? I wouldn't be the least surprised to find him be head college coach in 20 years.
But when you read the post-game reports and interviews, and a few things emerge:
1. Connor broke his right scapula at Vanderbilt two weeks ago. It wasn't merely a "deep bone bruise" but an actual breakage of the bone - what Connor called a 'crack.' Maybe that's parsing words, since a deep bone bruise by definition results in some breakage of the bone tissue. But there's deep bone bruises and then there are deep bone bruises - and his was on the severe side of the scale. When he took the sack at the end of the second quarter, he re-aggravated the same fracture. He said so in his own words. "It’s the same crack in my shoulder blade." Coach Spurrier called it a fracture, too - but says it does not need surgery. I'm not so sure. I don't trust any coach to be totally honest on the severity of injuries, but the fact Connor had suffered a partial fracture was kept from us and our opponents. For what reason, I can't totally fathom - the minute anyone saw him out there, they could see that he was not 100%.
2. Connor lobbied to get the UAB start. Yes, the doctors cleared him. But Connor fought for playing time when, in hindsight, it would have been better to rest. It wasn't just rust that resulted in his line of 8-14, 107 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. It was pain. He said so himself: "I felt good coming in today. I felt like I could come in and play. Obviously the more I threw the more it hurt." Since he went out at the end of the first half, that meant he was throwing in pain during the game? Did he report that? Did he even have to? Couldn't we all see it?
You've got to have to two game-ready quarterbacks in this league. Period. End of discussion. Tennessee showed that least year when Bray went down. Arkansas has showed it this year. We don't know if Mizzou's Jame Franklin is going to be 100% healthy, but even a gutsy performance by Corbin Berkstresser made the Tigers look different than they did against Georgia. Even the vaunted UGA Bulldogs - our oldest non-rival - could be derailed if Aaron Murray has to leave a game; his back up, Christian Lemay, did not look particularly sharp against Florida Atlantic when given the chance to mop up against the Owls.
That's how razor-sharp is the line between victory and defeat in a conference where you must be able to throw and run if you have any hope of making the SECCG.
So what's my point? My point is that we need to go with Dylan Thompson for Missouri. Shaw isn't ready. He might not be ready for Kentucky, either. Or Georgia. But we'll need him to get healthy as fast as possible. As a starter you might ask? No. Don't you get it, yet? Right now, Connor is the back-up.
We need two SEC-quality starters. Connor isn't ready. That means Dylan is our guy. I like Seth Strickland and Andrew Clifford OK, but it's clear now that we need Bruce Ellington at WR and we don't need to pull off Brendan Nosovitch's redshirt. That means Connor has to get healthy asap and that means not playing him too early so that we actually lose him for the season.
Maybe Connor will get his starting job back. But not next week against Missouri. Dylan needs to be working with the first-teamers now. He's our QB1 until further notice.