South Carolina Football: Connor Shaw Versus Dylan Thompson, Who Should Start?
South Carolina has a problem.
However, it's an excellent problem to have.
The Gamecocks have two starting-caliber quarterbacks on the roster, ready to lead the team to victory at any given moment. They're both efficient quarterbacks that the team can rally behind. They both work extraordinarily hard and make the most of their opportunities.
That's where the similarities end.
These quarterbacks are two very different animals. Two gun-slinging, Clemson Tiger-slaying, athletically-gifted and intelligent animals.
Who should be the starter heading forward? Here's my honest opinion of the subject.
Both quarterbacks have shown the ability to hit passes from all over the field.
However, when you begin talking about pure passing, people seem to prefer Dylan Thompson. When he's in the game, Steve Spurrier's offense just seems to click in the passing game.
That must make "DT" the more accurate passer.
While Thompson puts up great yardage in his starts, the game plans are completely different. In two starts against ECU and Clemson, Thompson threw the ball 78 times, with 41 against Clemson being the high. That's an average of 39 passes per start.
Connor Shaw only tossed the ball 21 times per game.
So throw out yardage, because that doesn't indicate accuracy. If you watch the games, you will notice that Shaw tends to place the ball slightly better than Thompson, although Shaw's legs tend to put him in some rough positions at times.
The bottom line? Shaw has completed 67.3 percent of his passes to Thompson's 50.4. Shockingly, he also had 8.2 yards per attempt to Thompson's 7.9.
Not only was he more accurate, but he actually had more yards per attempt.
Shaw gets the edge here.
Here's where it gets a bit more competitive from my point of view.
Connor Shaw just hasn't grown as much as a "pocket manager" as I'd like. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, he tends to scramble or run towards the much quicker ends and linebackers.
Dylan Thompson has the beautiful ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver strikes. He steps up and uses great footwork in order to make the plays that are needed.
Ironically, this hasn't translated into a large sack discrepancy. In limited action, Thompson has been sacked 12 times, while Shaw has been rocked on 23 occasions.
Given the sheer amount of plays that Shaw has over Thompson, you'd think that the number would be greater for Shaw.
However, Thompson gets the nod here. He just looks more comfortable in the pocket. He may hold the ball too long, but he still seems to use the correct footwork more often than Shaw.
Dylan Thompson is surprisingly athletic for a passing quarterback. He has pretty good wheels and the ability to get positive yardage at times.
His 38-yard effort against Clemson shows he can do some damage with his rushing ability.
However, Connor Shaw looks like a running back at times. He has an underrated cutting ability and vision that makes him a dangerous runner. He has 327 yards on the ground to go with three touchdowns.
He's the epitome of dual-threat quarterback, and he obviously gets the award for best rushing quarterback here.
Again, there is no contest here. When the most respected player on the team says that Connor Shaw is the leader of the team, who are we to argue?
Marcus Lattimore said just that.
Shaw's ''our leader, he's consistent. He stays in the pocket when he has to, he runs when he has to,'' Lattimore said. ''He's a complete quarterback.''
I agree with him. While others may point to Dylan Thompson's fiery demeanor as a sign of his leadership, I point to it as a sign of great excitability. That's not always leadership.
Shaw's stoic demeanor means that when he speaks or gets fired up, the team must listen. He's also 16-3 as a starter. That statistic cannot be ignored.
While Thompson is a sparkling 2-0 as a starter this season, that doesn't negate the stellar long-term career record that Shaw holds.
Shaw grabs this category as well.
Again, Connor Shaw has to walk (or limp) away with this one.
Shaw has been hurt all year long. He hurt his shoulder against Vanderbilt and went into the locker room. He came out and gritted the team to a painful victory against the Commodores.
He was then listed as questionable for the ECU game. Dylan Thompson actually got the start, leading us to this discussion.
He was basically a mainstay on the injury report all year long with his shoulder and foot injuries. However, he gutted out another incredibly efficient season.
Thompson hasn't been tested like this yet. It's difficult to compare, but Shaw has already proven his toughness.
Shaw again, in a landslide.
Connor Shaw definitely "drops the ball" here.
See what I did there?
Seriously, though, Connor had a bad year holding onto the football. He threw seven interceptions this season and had problems handling the ball. The biggest fumble of the year had to be against Florida right at their own goal line.
It set the stage for a major beatdown that cost South Carolina the SEC East.
Dylan Thompson only threw two picks on the year. He's been efficient. He did fumble against Clemson, but he recovered it himself.
Dylan Thompson has been much better in this area in 2012.
Performance in the Clutch
Connor Shaw has proven time and time again that he can be a clutch player. Just this year, he had clutch plays against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Wofford.
Thompson doesn't have quite the resume to work with. He definitely played clutch during the Clemson game. The touchdown throw late in the game to seal the deal against the Tigers will live on in Gamecock lore.
However, with the game on the line, Shaw would be South Carolina's choice in the huddle and with the coaches. Again, his 16-3 record speaks for itself.
It's Shaw here as well.
Out of the seven categories I used to determine who I'd like to see start, Connor Shaw walked away with five.
His accuracy, running ability, leadership, toughness and clutch performances lead me to believe he will be the guy in charge of the Gamecock offense until the day he decides to hang it up.
While Dylan Thompson's close behind Connor in many of these areas and has a great pocket prescience and ability to protect the football, he just doesn't have the pedigree or complete game of Shaw.
I still believe Shaw is one of the most underrated and underappreciated quarterbacks in college football. Dylan Thompson is a great backup and will be a great senior starter for the Gamecocks.
However, the team is in good hands with a healthy Connor Shaw in the huddle.