The South Carolina Gamecocks will receive their first bye week of the season in Week 10, and there is no better time than the present for this program. Not only has the team had a brutal SEC stretch the last few weeks, but running back Marcus Lattimore has once again suffered a horrible injury that will cost him the remainder of the year.
The good news is that this squad has been through these things before, as Lattimore tore his ACL last year and missed half of the 2011 season. The bad news is that the most explosive offensive weapon is gone, and the coaching staff will spend the week off trying to discover playmakers that can make up his absence.
Let's take a look at some of the players that must emerge for the remainder of the year, keeping South Carolina relevant in the SEC.
Connor Shaw, Quarterback
First and foremost, Shaw has to continue to grow as a quarterback with Lattimore not around. Last season when the star running back went down, Shaw was shaky at times throwing the football and had a tendency to make bad decisions. He must be patient in the pocket and take what the defense gives him.
Currently, Shaw is completing 66 percent of his passes and is on pace to break all the career highs he set last year in passing yards and touchdowns. The problem is that Lattimore was the only true and experienced playmaker on this offense that Shaw could completely feel comfortable with in pressure situations.
The starting quarterback must gain confidence in other players around him and not try to force things on the football field with No. 21 no longer by his side.
Kenny Miles, Running Back
Miles is going to take over as the starting running back for South Carolina, as he will also split time with Mike Davis and possibly Brandon Wilds (if he is healthy). But if there were ever a time for the senior back to get going, it is now.
He is only averaging 3.5 yards a carry and hasn't been that playmaker since the 2009 season when he had 626 yards on only 117 touches. The powerful running back needs to become a threat on the ground game, especially with the read-option offense this team likes to run.
The reason everything worked so well with Lattimore is because defenses had two guys to worry about when the option was being run. Head coach Steve Spurrier said this before the big game against LSU, according to Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times.
"We can fake it to Marcus and Connor can take off running," Spurrier said. "I think it helps Connor's running also when you've got a back that the defense has to stop."
Miles must become that back that is difficult to stop for South Carolina.
Bruce Ellington, Wide Receiver
When Lattimore went down last year, South Carolina still had one of the more talented wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery to lean on. This season, Ellington must step up and help fill that void now that Jefferey is in the NFL.
The thing that sticks out with Ellington is his combination of speed and quickness. He gets down field in a hurry; he helps stretch the field, and can really make big plays happen for this offense. The sophomore has 23 receptions on the year and 14 of those catches have gone for over 15 yards.
The wide receiver is a versatile player and a special talent, who can help take this unit to the next level. He had his biggest game of his career last week against Tennessee, racking up 101 receiving yards and he should receive more opportunities with Lattimore out.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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