COLUMBIA, SC — After winning more games than any quarterback in South Carolina's football history, Connor Shaw will be missed.
Now it's up to Dylan Thompson to make sure it's not too much.
Shaw's understudy for most of the last three seasons, Thompson finally gets his chance to be No. 1 in his senior year, and the Gamecocks offense will be different as a result.
Most of those differences will be subtle. Don't expect South Carolina to radically change its offense.
The Gamecocks will still use plenty of zone read and while Thompson doesn't have the running ability of Shaw, he's still going to be required to run on occasion.
He should prove adequate, although it's doubtful he can duplicate Shaw's uncanny ability to outrun defenders to the first-down marker.
Where the Gamecocks will change most will be in the passing game. With Thompson at quarterback, look for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier to call more deep passes.
The deep ball was never Shaw's forte, and he often held off throwing it, even when Spurrier called for it.
Thompson seems to have no hesitation about turning it loose.
At 6'3" and 218 pounds, he's built more like a conventional pocket passer than Shaw and should arguably throw a better deep ball.
With wide receivers Damiere Byrd and Shaq Roland beginning to emerge as home run threats, that should mean the Gamecocks will try more than ever to stretch the field vertically.
Like Shaw, Thompson is a battle-tested winner.
Thompson has played in 25 games and has completed 120 of 218 passes (55 percent) for 1,827 yards, with five interceptions and 14 touchdowns.
He passed his own personal gut check with his performance two years ago at Clemson. With Shaw out with an injury, Thompson went all the way at quarterback and threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-17 victory over the Tigers.
Like Shaw, Thompson will operate behind a veteran offensive line and will be surrounded by talented skill players in the backfield, at wide receiver and tight end.
If there are questions about Thompson, it will come in the area of intangibles.
Shaw had the ability to take over a game and all but win it himself. Last season's victory at Missouri is an example.
Thompson may or may not have that ability, but he is smart enough to get the ball in the hands of the Gamecocks' playmakers and that could be enough.
Ultimately, if the Gamecocks are winning, it won't really matter.
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