South Carolina had itself an interesting year in 2011.
There was a quarterback controversy to start the year, several injuries in the backfield, the dismissal of Stephen Garcia and an offense in turmoil.
Through it all, the Gamecocks became 11-game winners for the first time in school history. The driving force behind it was their quarterback Connor Shaw.
This year, Shaw is expected to take the Gamecocks to new heights, and USC will need its starting quarterback to reach a whole new level to get the Gamecocks where they want to be.
Here are a few reasons why.
Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia battled to be the quarterback in 2011. Shaw won the job initially by starting the season opener against ECU, but Garcia was able to win back the position midway through that first game.
When USC faltered at home against Auburn, Steve Spurrier made the switch to Shaw, and they never looked back. Garcia was dismissed shortly after the Kentucky game, and Shaw was officially the starting quarterback for South Carolina.
The key thing here is, Shaw will not have to look over his shoulder wondering if he’ll lose his position. There’s no quarterback controversy waiting in the wings, as it seemingly has since Spurrier's arrival at South Carolina.
The comfort level that Coach Spurrier has with Connor Shaw should help Shaw rest easy knowing he has the support of the head ball Coach.
Not many quarterbacks have had that luxury under Steve Spurrier.
If you go back and look at the best games in 2011 for South Carolina, you’ll see a trend.
When Connor Shaw plays well, so do the Gamecocks.
Looking at some of the best overall games for Gamecocks offense, you’ll see a direct correlation between Shaw’s performance and the offense’s performance.
Take a look:
- Against Kentucky, Shaw threw for 311 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for 42 yards. The Gamecocks won 54-3.
- Shaw threw for 217 yards and rushed for 90 yards with four total touchdowns against The Citadel in a 41-20 victory.
- Shaw had another four total touchdowns with 210 yards passing and 107 yards rushing against Clemson in a 34-13 victory.
- Shaw threw for 230 yards with two touchdowns and had 42 yards rushing with one touchdown in a 30-13 victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
As you can see, a big reason for the Gamecocks' big wins in those four games was the strong play by Shaw at quarterback. He was able to use both his arm and legs to propel the Gamecock offense to big numbers in these games, and in turn, gave USC the big victory.
Shaw needs to perform well this season week in and week out in order for the Gamecocks to continue their strong play. If he’s able to perform this well every week, he’ll reach the next level for the Gamecocks.
If you think about some of the recent teams with success in the SEC, they've all had stellar quarterback play on offense.
Players like Tim Tebow, Ryan Mallett and Greg McElroy all were integral parts of their team's success. Whether it was mistake-free football, willing their team to victory or putting up big stats, these players all did what was necessary for team success.
Connor Shaw has the ability to put all these attributes to use for the Gamecocks this season. We've seen what he can do on the football field. Connor Shaw won eight of his first nine games as a starter last season. Now, he has a chance to run the distance.
In order for the Gamecocks to be recognized as an SEC great, Shaw has to be great for the Gamecocks. Now is the time to step up and show the SEC what you're all about.
Connor Shaw is the clear-cut starter at quarterback.
However, if he struggles this season, who do they Gamecocks turn to?
South Carolina has inexperience on the depth chart behind Shaw, making it imperative that the junior play-caller continues to improve and play steady football for South Carolina. Right now, the Gamecocks have red-shirt sophomore Dylan Thompson, red-shirt freshman Tanner McEvoy, redshirt senior Seth Strickland, red-shirt junior Andrew Clifford and incoming freshman Brendan Nosovitch.
The combined pass-attempts in 2011 for these five players: four.
Shaw is the only experienced player at quarterback for the Gamecocks who is capable of handling the pressure of this upcoming schedule. It would be hard to rely on this unproven talent this season if Shaw were to get hurt, or regress, this upcoming year.
The Gamecocks need Shaw healthy and playing well, or else the season could suffer based on the inexperience on the depth chart.