We all saw Connor Shaw’s toughness on display in Thursday night’s game in Nashville. After getting hit in the shoulder trying to slide down on a running play, Shaw reentered the game and continued playing fearless football through intense pain.
This week, however, the coaches are saying Shaw might not be available at all for the East Carolina game. Trainers determined that while there was no structural damage to the shoulder, he suffered a deep bone bruise and wouldn’t play unless he’s healthy. “It’s just painful for him, and he has trouble lifting his arm right now, so it’s pretty hard to play quarterback,” said coach Steve Spurrier on Sunday. “It’s ‘wait and see’ right now.”
So who will the Gamecocks turn to if they don’t have their starting quarterback under center? The most likely choice is Dylan Thompson, a 6’3″, 212 lb. redshirt sophomore from Boiling Springs High School in the upstate. Thompson hasn’t amassed many stats during his Gamecock career, completing two passes for 17 yards and rushing five times for 16 yards, including an eight yard touchdown scamper, entering the 2012 season. Thompson was 0-for-3 passing in Nashville, also rushing five times for -4 yards. But he seems to be a capable backup. The coaches haven’t shown a lack of confidence in him, and he was a Shrine Bowl selection in high school after throwing for 1,300 yards and accounting for 21 touchdowns.
Also on the roster are fifth-year senior Seth Strickland and redshirt junior Andrew Clifford, both of whom have seen limited playing time for the Gamecocks. Strickland is the holder for field goals and extra points and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ace Sanders against Troy in 2010. Clifford has completed three of his four passing attempts, including a seven-yard touchdown to D.L. Moore in last year’s 54-3 blowout win over Kentucky.
Thompson is the most logical choice if Shaw isn’t able to go on Saturday. But don’t be surprised if Spurrier has an itchy trigger finger, putting Strickland or Clifford in the game at the first sign of trouble. Thankfully, East Carolina’s defense is notoriously porous; this is a game that South Carolina will win even if there’s a quarterback carousel. It should give Spurrier a chance to find out who is the true second-best quarterback on the roster.