How South Carolina Gamecocks Offense Changes with Dylan Thompson at QB
Remember back in summer when there was a supposed quarterback controversy at South Carolina? There wasn't.
A healthy Connor Shaw is and always has been the No. 1 option at quarterback, but staying healthy has been an issue for the senior from Flowery Branch, Ga.
Shaw injured his shoulder in the opener last season, forcing him to miss the Gamecocks' second game. He then missed the regular-season finale against Clemson with a foot injury. The injury bug bit him again on Saturday, in a 28-25 win over Central Florida in Orlando.
Shaw was hit and fumbled on South Carolina's first drive, and he was knocked out of the game with a sprained shoulder. According to head coach Steve Spurrier, Shaw will be sidelined for the immediate future (via Josh Kendall of The State):
Connor Shaw and Brandon Wilds both out 2 to 3 weeks Spurrier believes at this point.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 28, 2013
So, what does Dylan Thompson bring to the table?
The junior threw for 261 yards against the Knights on Saturday. He also threw for 310 yards in Shaw's absence against Clemson last season, and 117 yards and two touchdowns splitting time with Shaw in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
He's not a backup; he's "1B" to Shaw being "1A."
With that said, head coach Steve Spurrier is going to have to adjust his offense to the more traditional Thompson.
That happened in the second half on Saturday, when South Carolina came out of the locker room at halftime, lined up in the eye and ran the ball with Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds—before Wilds left with an injury of his own.
The running game is and has been the foundation of the South Carolina offense since 2010, but the quarterback has been a big part of that mix, first with Stephen Garcia and most recently with Shaw. In South Carolina's first three games, Shaw ran 47 times for 202 yards.
If Dylan Thompson is forced into more playing time, what does that do to South Carolina's division title hopes?
Thompson won't and shouldn't do that.
He is mobile in the sense that he can buy time in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, but he isn't a threat on zone reads like Shaw. Those plays will still be in the mix, but Thompson isn't going to take it to the house.
Since Thompson has the bigger arm, expect an offense similar to Alabama or Georgia when he's in the game. Davis running downhill will set up Thompson to take shots deep, which is the strength of his game.
In other words, South Carolina's offense will be an "old school Spurrier" offense until Shaw returns.
Also, expect the tight ends to figure into the game more prominently. Rory Anderson and Jerell Adams had six catches combined heading into Week 5. That changed on Saturday when the duo combined for three catches and 78 yards. If Thompson is in the game, safeties have to respect his arm, which opens things up for the tight ends up the seam.
Thompson will sling it around the field, take a ton of shots deep and use play-action to his advantage. It's a departure from the norm for South Carolina, but it doesn't mean expectations should change in Columbia.
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