Originally written on Leftover Hot Dog  |  Last updated 11/15/14

Thinking about South Carolina football on a Friday afternoon?  Our friend Steve was and provided some good things to make you go "hmmm" concerning Brandon Wilds and Connor Shaw.  Enjoy this guest blog.....

Marcus Lattimore has rushed for a total of 2,015 yards in what amounts to about 18 full games (I'm counting last year's UK & Troy games as "one" full game because he didn't play in the second half of either and not even including the Chik-fil-A Bowl, he got injured so early in that one). This works out to about 111.9 yards per game over his career and 116.9 yards per game this season. His totals and per game averages are both great. We miss him, look forward to having him back after he's fully recovered, and look forward to at least one more year of watching him in a Gamecocks jersey.

All that said (other than a 102 yard game against Kentucky between Auburn and Mississippi State), Lattimore was somehow being increasingly neutralized in 3 of his last 4 games (77 yards against Vandy, 66 against Auburn, and only 39 against Mississippi State).

Based on his cutting ability and natural instincts as a runner, I was encouraged by what Brandon Wilds might be able to do and looked forward to what he might be able to do if given his chance. Granted, Wilds rushed against a Vols teams still seeking an SEC victory, but it was still against talent that arguably surpassed that of ECU, Navy, Vandy, Kentucky, and Mississippi State.

I'm not at all making the case that Wilds is better than Lattimore, and I'm not glad that he's hurt, but it's quite possible that we'll be just fine at running back considering Wilds rushed for 137 yards (about 20 more than Lattimore's 2011 per game average).

While we're comparing, (yeah) I'd like to see Conner Shaw passing for more yards and touchdowns, but (other than needing to throw the ball out of bounds once out of the tackle box to avoid a loss of yardage) he's making better decisions than Garcia was this year. He's not forcing the ball into coverage like Garcia was, and when he can't find an open man quickly, he's (usually) tucking the ball in securely and rushing for positive yardage. I'd put it this way. Shaw won the Kentucky game for us, stumbled a bit before coming through at clutch time against MSU, and managed not to do anything to lose the game against UT.

He's kind of the "anti-Garcia." Shaw does almost everything differently. Garcia played like a desperate gambler and (this year) it rarely paid off. He'd try to force it into multiple coverage, hoping Alshon could make a play. Many of his passes were horribly under or overthrown, and many were intercepted. Instead of sliding early (something Shaw does a lot), Garcia would try to pick up that extra yard or two and end up fumbling the ball. Whereas Shaw usually runs for positive yardage when nobody's open quickly, Garcia would wait an extra second or two and get sacked.

One final note. Spurrier may well be playing a masterful game of chess and/or poker. When Shaw was named the starter, folks assumed Spurrier would call a conservative passing game and just have Shaw hand the ball off to Lattimore a lot. Instead, Spurrier had Shaw throw more (and to more different receivers) than at any other time this season (in our history?) When Wilds was pressed into duty after Lattimore's season-ending injury, folks assumed that Spurrier would rely more on Shaw's passing, especially to Alshon. Instead, we passed it the least we have all year and Wilds rushed for the third highest total by a Gamecocks running back this year. (Surpassed only by Lattimore's 246 against Navy & 176 against UGa.)

Would Spurrier have liked to have had a more balanced attack against Tennessee? I think so. But is some of this by design, to keep the opposing coaches off-guard? Quite possibly.

In closing, trust Coach Spurrier and know that Brandon Wilds can get it done while Connor Shaw provides hope for a bright future.  


STEVE JOHNSON is a Freelance Writer who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of South Carolina in 1991. You can reach him via Steve@StevePierceJohnson.com or contact him through his website www.StevePierceJohnson.com 

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