Shaw’s second start
Sophomore Connor Shaw will make his second career start Saturday. He has 252 passing yards and 205 rushing yards in his career and has never started an SEC game. Senior Stephen Garcia’s six interceptions in two games forced Steve Spurrier’s hand, but the question remains, Is Shaw a better option? We’ll find out Saturday as Spurrier has said Shaw will play the entire game barring injury. “He’s our quarterback,” Spurrier said. That could mean he’s our quarterback this week or he’s our quarterback for the next two-and-a-half years. Saturday's game will go a long way toward deciding which of the two it is.
Offensive line improvement?
Spurrier’s frustration level with his offensive line has slowly risen in the last three weeks. It peaked this week after running back Marcus Lattimore was held to 66 yards by the SEC’s worst rushing defense (Auburn). “It’s always helpful when the line blocks people,” Spurrrier said. “Our blocking has been a little on the bad side lately.” The bad news is starting tackle Kyle Nunn (back) is out for the second straight week. His replacements, freshmen Cody Gibson and Mike Matulis, struggled last week. Both should be better this week, but that still will be a weak spot.
Keeping pace important
The Gamecocks are in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC East with Florida and Georgia. “We’re not in bad shape,” Spurrier said. “We didn’t expect to go undefeated.” Still, the upset by Auburn took away the Gamecocks’ margin for error. South Carolina’s schedule gets tougher after Saturday thanks to road trips to Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas and a home game against Florida. The Gamecocks can’t stumble against a team ranked last in the league in total offense and ninth in total defense.
Senior Melvin Ingram was the forgotten defensive end entering the season, but he changed that early and keeps turning heads. However, he’s not expected to play Saturday due to a sprained left foot. The Gamecocks aren’t exactly shorthanded now. They’ll still have Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney on the outside, but someone will have to replace Ingram’s energy and big-play ability. He leads the SEC in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (7.5) and has scored three touchdowns this season.
New faces in new places
The Gamecocks still are trying to get more players in the game on offense. Marcus Lattimore has 124 of the 134 carries by running backs this season, and Alshon Jeffery (19) and Ace Sanders (nine) are the only wide receivers with more than five catches this season. “Far as receivers, hopefully we can get the guys out there more, hopefully we can get more balls in the air, get more players involved, same as our running backs,” Spurrier said. “We need to get Brandon Wilds out there, maybe Eric Baker a little bit. We’ve sort of stuck to playing the same guys about the whole game and hopefully we can get more players out there involved in helping the team be more successful.”