The Final Cockdown: #14 Connor Shaw

Streeter Lecka

Healthy and hungry, the senior QB is primed for triumph in the final chapter of his Gamecock career.

Connor Shaw
Senior
6'1", 209 lbs.
Flowery Branch, GA

Recruitment:
3 stars, #9 dual threat QB in the 2010 class
Other offers: East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Wake Forest, West Virginia

College Career:
Connor Shaw graduated early and arrived at South Carolina in the spring of 2010. As a true freshman, he'd find his way into the two deep, serving as backup to His Almighty Brahsomeness during the 2010 SEC East title run. He played sporadically his freshman year, usually in mop-up duty, but was given the keys in the fourth quarter of the Auburn game. Shaw was unable to play the hero, throwing two picks in the loss to the eventual National Champions. He'd earn the starting nod in the 2011 season opener against ECU on the heels of Stephen Garcia's tumultuous offseason. Shaw struggled out of the gates, and Spurrier opted for Brahsome for the next handful of games. But once Stephen got the boot, the keys were once again Connor's. He went buckwald on Kentucky and proceeded to lead the program to its first 11 win season. It's worth noting that he played one of his best games against Clemson (14-20, 210 yards, 3 TD, 107 yards rushing)—lest fans forget that Dylan Thompson isn't the only South Carolina quarterback on the roster to get nasty on the Tigers.

Ask the "Dylan Thompson for Starter" crowd and they'll tell you the 2012 Gamecocks operated on the razor's edge in each of its Shaw-lead contests and that, sure, he set a school record for completion percentage and was 10th in the country in pass efficiency, but Dylan beat Clemson and threw two big passes against Michigan so there you have it. But remember the big picture. Aside from an injury-hindered-but-still-victorious Vanderbilt showing and an abysmal line at Florida, Shaw was often phenomenal in 2012. Only 75 quarterbacks in the past decade (none of them Gamecocks) have posted a better QB rating than Connor did in 2012 (minimum 20 passes/game.) Was Shaw perfect? Hardly. But lobbying to bench an experienced leader who played and won hurt doesn't pass the smell test. Thankfully, Steve Spurrier knows better.

2013 Outlook:
So yes, Connor Shaw is the first string quarterback and there's not been any real suggestion to the contrary from insiders. But that isn't to say he's beyond reproach. Steve Spurrier is still coaching this team, after all, and he knows there's a proven option available in Thompson should Connor flatline. But if he stays healthy, I suspect it won't be an issue. This is a senior SEC quarterback with an 85% career winning percentage entering his fourth year of action, so let's not overlook that luxury. Still, Shaw does need to work on his 10.9% sack rate, which is well above the league average (blame the line if you must, but we all know Shaw could stand to throw the ball away more than he has in the past.) His performance is also contingent on the progress of his supporting cast. Will the post-Lattimore/Miles backfield be effective enough to keep defenses guessing? Will the experienced offensive line finally cauterize? Will any of our young receivers establish themselves as reliable options? Keep in mind these questions would still exist if we planned on shoving a true freshman under center. Instead, we've got a guy with gobs of spotlit experience and a time-hewn understanding of Steve Spurrier's offense. You should feel good about this.

Oh, and he's a coach's son. I think I have to say that in any article about Shaw.

Trivia:
Once spoiled the ending to The Dark Knight on Twitter and blocked GABA writer and Half Cocked Podcast host Connor Tapp for calling him out on it.

Possible Todd Ellis play-by-play call:
"Connor Shaw takes the snap, zone read, he keeps it, and gets around the edge and he's into the open field! Down the sideline, turns on the afterburners, and no one will catch him! TOUCHDOWN, CONNOR SHAW! It's his third of the day! This one's turning into a rout, folks—looks like Florida will ride home from this Clash singing the refrain, 'I fought the Shaw and the Shaw won'!"

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