Connor Shaw's high tolerance for pain is no secret to those in and around South Carolina’s football program.
He’s not a big guy, but he sure plays big -- and his toughness is off the charts.
But here’s the reality: He’s one game into the season and already battling a deep shoulder bruise to his right (throwing) shoulder. That’s never ideal for a 210-pound quarterback who runs as much as Shaw does.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that Shaw could be ready to play Saturday against East Carolina. The good news is that it’s not a joint injury. But the Gamecocks aren’t going to put him out there if he can’t protect himself and can’t be effective throwing the ball.
"From what I understand, he thinks he's not going to have any pain by the weekend. But we've just got to wait and see," Spurrier said.
The schedule these next two weeks should work in the Gamecocks’ favor. After East Carolina’s visit, they get UAB at home before jumping back into SEC play on Sept. 22 against Missouri at home.
“We’ll see how he feels Wednesday or Thursday,” Spurrier said. “If he can’t pitch it around Thursday, he’s probably not going to play.”
Anybody who really knows Shaw knows that he’d be out there even if one of his teammates had to prop up Shaw’s right arm to throw. Again, he’s as tough as they come.
But it’s also a fair question to ask: Can he make it through the entire season in this league if he takes the kind of beating he did in the opener against Vanderbilt?
The initial injury occurred when he took a knee to the shoulder area, and it only worsened after landing on it a few more times in the game. Spurrier said there was nothing wrong with the way Shaw got down last week and that he did so the way he was coached.
“Some people think you ought to slide feet first,” Spurrier said. “But he did that against Nebraska (in the Capital One Bowl), and the guy speared him in the head. I think the way he is running and getting down is the way you’re supposed to do it -- get all you can and get down. They generally don’t spear you when you’re on the ground.”
Shaw, who carried the ball 14 times for 92 yards against Vanderbilt, realizes the importance of his staying healthy. But he’s also not going to change the way he plays. He’s not a pocket passer, and this isn’t the same offense Spurrier ran at Florida.
Not even close.
For Shaw to be effective and for the zone read to be effective, he has to run.
But down the road, South Carolina will also need to get more out of its passing game than it did against Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks finished with just 67 yards passing.
“When we went 11-2, and he won as a quarterback, six of seven of those games he didn't throw for a ton of yards in hardly any of them," Spurrier said. "So whether or not we're going to start doing that, we're going to wait and see. But he runs extremely well. He's a good runner with the ball. That's a big part of our offense. Even the last game, he was averaging 10 yards a carry until we took (those knees) at the end of the game.
"What he does is run very well, and I don't know if he needs to run a whole bunch this week or not or if he can throw or not. We've just got to wait and see."