SPARTANBURG | For the better part of a day, Shon Carson looked like anything but a Shrine Bowler.
The South Carolina commitment, a tailback from Lake City, was struggling to simply take on-air handoffs on the opening day of practices Monday. When he was able to successfully take the exchange from Palmetto State quarterbacks Justin Worley and Everett Golson, he was often out of position or unable to find the proper running lanes.
He was frequently singled out by his offensive coaches, though they understood it might take him a few days to adjust. Lake City didn’t employ a spread offense, so the principles are a bit foreign to him.
“He’ll be fine,” said Lake City coach Jim Rowell, whose team based as a flexbone, I-formation power running team for the past three seasons. “We’ve run a little bit of one-back, but I’m sure the zone blocking will take him a couple of days. I’m sure he’ll catch on.”
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This week’s practices have shown Carson the learning curve he faces once he makes the transition to South Carolina, which utilizes an offense similar to what the Sandlappers will employ Saturday.
Many believe the 5-foot-9, 195-pounder is a perfect fit for a zone blocking scheme. Though his running style includes an ability to make some players miss, he may fit best in a scheme like USC’s that will allow him to pick a hole and attack it as a downhill runner. Carson is a tough inside runner – he bench presses 300-plus pounds and squats more than 500 – despite his size.
“Shon is an incredible reader of blocks,” Rowell said. “He lets them set up well in front of him. I think he’ll be very successful in it. I just think for our program it wasn’t the best system for us to be in. But I think he’ll excel in that program.”
Of course, USC’s coaches may have to be patient with him as he learns the intricacies of their scheme. Patience is something that he’s learning to use this week.
“It’s different because you’ve got to slow the offense down and read assignments for the cutbacks,” said Carson, who is roommates with USC target Jadeveon Clowney this week. “And you don’t have a lead blocker. You’ve just got to take it slow.
“I need to get used to it because I’ve got to run it next year. I’m ready to take on the challenge. I think I’ll fit in, because I’m getting used to it now.”
It didn’t figure to be long before a player of his talents caught on.
Carson rushed for 4,426 yards and 66 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He is the top running back from South Carolina in the Class of 2011.
“He’s picking right up at it,” South Carolina head coach Mickey Moss said. “He’s going to be great. He did a good job [this week] with the inside and outside zone. His cuts were great. He looks good.
“I think he’s perfect for what we’re trying to do.”