HOOVER, Ala. — The trick for South Carolina’s offense this season is to become more of a power running team as quarterback Connor Shaw, an excellent runner, evolves in the passing game.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
“We can do both,” Shaw said.
The sound is confident for two reasons. First, running back Marcus Lattimore, who amazed the SEC with a 1,197-yard freshman season, is expected to return at full strength this season. He had gained 818 yards when, in the seventh game, he went down with a season-ending knee injury.
That didn’t prevent the Gamecocks from having one of the best seasons in the program’s history, capping an 11-2 season with a victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
Part of that was Shaw’s rapid improvement. In his second career start, Shaw had an SEC player of the week performance with four touchdown passes against Kentucky.
Over the final month of the season, Shaw had some of the SEC’s best passing numbers, and finished the year with an 8-1 record as a starter, competing 65.4 percent and throwing 14 touchdown passes.
Shaw wants to improve those numbers while reducing the rushing figures of 671 yards and eight touchdowns.
“There were times last year when I was hesitant and not comfortable early on, so I’d run,” Shaw said. “But this year I’m going to rely on my arm more than my legs.”
That’s how coach Steve Spurrier wants it.
“Connor’s a little different,” Spurrier said. “He’s a running and passing quarterback. I’ve never quite had one that been maybe a little bit better runner than passer. Hopefully, he’ll be a little better passer this year but he’s going to keep running because that’s what he does very well.”
There’s another SEC school in a similar situation: Missouri. Quarterback James Franklin is made from the same mold, although his numbers, from a more offensive-minded program, are better at 2,865 yards and 21 passing touchdowns with 981 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.
Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel also would like to see Franklin run less.
“Fourth-and-one, third-and-one, I want (him) to compete, go get it,” Pinkel said. “Other than that, you learn to go down, you learn not to take a big hit. You have to pick your moments.”
Adjusting to the new marching orders will be a side-by-side comparison on Sept. 22 when Missouri visits South Carolina.