It is humorous to watch his face as reporters ask him about it. He shakes his head and says things like Carolina may be the last running team in college football—except Alabama, he says, they run the ball over there too.
Then, he does that Steve Spurrier shrug and drops a little hint about it is best to say you will be running and come out passing. Or, he quickly adds, say you are going to pass and come out running. These little nuggets were passed out to reporters between practice sessions on Monday.
Got you wondering yet? Me neither.
Steve Spurrier is going to have an offense that does whatever is required to win the football game. But, if he gets to do it his way, they will throw the football—a lot.
Last season, the Gamecocks relied on the run much more than a normal Spurrier coached team. They had to. Suddenly, their senior quarterback couldn't find his receivers. Then, he was dismissed from the team and a sophomore named Connor Shaw got the nod.
Shaw became the starter in the midst of the annual SEC conference wars. As always, Spurrier played it smart. Against lesser opponents, his new quarterback got plenty of pass opportunities. When they faced stiffer competition, the coach appeared ready to use his great sophomore running back, Marcus Lattimore, to take on most of the workload.
A great defense and running back was going to allow the coach to continue to bring his new quarterback along slowly. Connor Shaw was learning how to win at this level while the running game and defense were carrying the load to win ball games. The plan made for some nervous moments but the wins kept coming.
When Lattimore went down in the Mississippi State game, Spurrier continued with the plan but had to go to other running backs. True freshman Brandon Wilds stepped up and added 486 yards to the 818 Lattimore had already contributed. Occasionally, Wilds would be rested and junior Kenny Miles would be called on. He added another 204 yards.
The three backs combined for 1,508 rushing, while the stingy defense only allowed 18 points a game. As a result, five of the last six games, South Carolina averaged less than 19 pass attempts per game. They also won five of the six. Getting behind to Arkansas and playing catch up made the Gamecocks throw more than they wanted (25 attempts) in that game.
This season, Connor Shaw is a junior starter. He has a much better understanding of the offense as well as what he needs to do. He also has been working out, throwing to his receivers on their own time during the summer.
The receiving corps must be considered slightly less talented without super receiver Alshon Jeffrey, now with the Chicago Bears. They still have good talent however and welcomed another highly touted freshman this year in Shaq Roland.
The big difference-maker for Shaw this year will be in timing and experience. Expectations of the offensive line being better overall are boding well for the pass game, also.
Steve Spurrier will continue to answer the questions between now and the start of the season. He will continue to hint that South Carolina will be a three yards and a cloud of dust team as we all eat it up. Carolina may even open up trying to ground and pound Vanderbilt. If it works, they may do it the whole game.
Sooner or later, in the Vandy game or elsewhere, a leopard will reveal its spots again. South Carolina will start throwing the ball—a lot. At least compared to late last season. And if it works, they will keep it up.
What about Marcus Lattimore?
What about him?
He will benefit as much from an increase in the pass game as anyone. Instead of 37 runs for 140 yards, he will go for 22 runs for 145. The next morning in the newspaper, it will all look the same. Just rest assured, the head ball coach likes to chunk it. And, unless his team just can't make it work, he's going to do just that.
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