South Carolina’s two best offensive weapons will spend time on the bench Saturday against Coastal Carolina.
For sophomore running back Mike Davis, the reason is injury.
“I don’t know if he’ll be able to suit up,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
For senior quarterback Connor Shaw, it’s motivation, or something like it.
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“I told Connor yesterday, ‘We’re going to play Dylan (Thompson). You play better when you know Dylan’s going to play.’ And he does,” Spurrier said. “So Dylan’s going to play somewhere, first, second quarter, and we’ll see what happens.”
Davis, the SEC’s leading rusher (111.2 yards per game), did not practice Monday or Tuesday due to an ankle injury, and sophomore Shon Carson will start at running back for the No. 12 Gamecocks.
“Shon played well last week, had that big run that got us out of the hole there,” Spurrier said.
It will be the first start of Carson’s career. After missing all but two games of the last two seasons due to a knee injury and then a wrist injury, Carson has 47 carries for 218 yards this season. He had a career-high 102 last week against Florida, including a 58-yarder that sparked South Carolina’s game-winning drive.
“Shon’s a good back,” Spurrier said. “He’s a proven running back and finally popped that little draw play for his first long run since he’s been here. He had some good inside runs here and there also.”
Davis, who had 13 carries for 54 yards against the Gators, added an ankle injury to a list includes bruised ribs and a bruised shoulder, and South Carolina’s coaches are trying to teach him to protect himself better, Spurrier said.
“He’s still learning how to play,” Spurrier said. “He hasn’t played a whole lot yet. He gets in there and gets stood up and stands around too much. That’s how he got hurt the other day. You can’t stand up and let three guys take shots at you. So we’re trying to get him to get all he can, get low and try not to take those hits.”
Sophomore running back Brandon Wilds has missed six straight games due to elbow and hamstring injuries and has been limited in practice this week.
“He should be ready by the weekend from what our trainer said,” Spurrier said.
Shaw, who is tied for the school record in career victories with 24, is fourth in the SEC in passing efficiency and has 19 touchdowns vs. one interception but is coming off his worst game of the season. He has completed 61.3 percent of his passes this season, but only 50 percent in each of the last two weeks.
Why does Shaw play better when Thompson gets early playing time?
“I don’t know, but he does,” Spurrier said. “He knows Dylan is going in first or second quarter, he plays better. His footwork was off last week. His steps were off. He was off balance throwing. I don’t know why. He can throw a lot better than he threw last week. Maybe having Dylan play a series or two will help him out.”
Thompson has not thrown a pass since being pulled from the Oct. 26 game against Missouri after starting in place of the injured Shaw.