The dismissal of Stephen Garcia from the University of South Carolina football team will send shock waves through the Gamecock nation. Those same expectations that Garcia had resting squarely on his shoulders now have a new home.
Connor Shaw, a second year quarterback from Flowery Branch, GA, will take control of a South Carolina team with enough talent to win the SEC Championship. If the Gamecock faithful want to be even more optimistic, South Carolina has an outside chance of playing in New Orleans for the crystal ball.
Besides controlling the fate of South Carolina, the sophomore quarterback will also be the deciding factor in the Heisman race.
Marcus Lattimore began the season on everyone’s Heisman watch list and through the first three weeks, he stayed there. However, as Garcia started to struggle and Lattimore failed to torch a Vanderbilt Commodore defense that has trouble with the run, confidence in the running back started to wane. When he did not bounce back next week against Auburn, people started to jump off the bandwagon.
But like Connor Shaw, the second year running back from Duncan, SC bounced back against Kentucky. Shaw redeemed himself from an atrocious performance in Week 1 against the East Carolina Pirates, and Lattimore gained over 100 yards on the ground for the eighth-time in his career.
Not to be left out, Alshon Jeffery had six catches for 95 yards, two of which were touchdowns.
While Shaw was busy saving the Gamecocks' season last Saturday, he managed to breathe new life into Lattimore’s Heisman candidacy.
If Connor Shaw plays as well as he did against Kentucky, the reigning NCAA Freshman of the Year will put up some monster numbers. Shaw’s improved play at the QB position should open up the whole field.
Instead of seeing eight man boxes every down, defenses will have to respect the pass. Therefore, Lattimore should have more running lanes and will be able to break through the line without much trouble.
The Gamecocks will go as far as 6’1” Lattimore can take them. Improved play at the QB position not only allows Lattimore to have more reserves for the final push this season, but it makes Alshon Jeffery relevant again. Poor play by Garcia early in the season, rendered the stud WR useless.
Jeffery and company came alive last Saturday and showed how dangerous the Gamecock offense could be with a consistent QB. Granted, it came against a weak Kentucky team, but that type of game might have been just what the Ol’ Ball coach ordered.
One good performance does not guarantee Marcus Lattimore is going to win the Heisman or that South Carolina will be a one loss team playing for the National Championship. However, the future looks much brighter for the garnet and black with Connor Shaw at the helm.