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Thursday, January 30, 2014
The SEC's 25 best players: No. 6

By Greg Ostendorf

There might have been more talented players in the SEC, but nobody was tougher or showed more determination than the next player on the list.

Connor Shaw
Connor Shaw had a knack for making the big play at the big time, helping lead South Carolina to a second straight 11-win season.
No. 6: Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina

2013 summary: Despite suffering various injuries throughout the season, Shaw always found a way to play through them and finished with 2,447 yards passing, 558 yards rushing and 30 total touchdowns. He ranked fourth in the SEC among quarterbacks with a 162.9 QBR and threw just one interception all season.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2013 preseason countdown

Making the case for Shaw: When you think of SEC quarterbacks, Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, and Aaron Murray probably came to mind. They’re the record holders. They won the awards. They were named to the All-SEC teams. But it’s not out of the question to think that Shaw meant more to his team than any other signal-caller in the conference. He was the heart and soul of that South Carolina team. When he suffered a shoulder injury this season against UCF, he played the very next week at Kentucky. He wasn’t supposed to suit up against Missouri after spraining his knee the week before, but he took over in the fourth quarter and led the Gamecocks to a stunning come-from-behind win on the road. In his final game, he went 22 of 25 for 312 yards and three touchdowns as he carried his team past Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl. Shaw won’t be the first quarterback taken in May’s NFL draft. He might not even be the best quarterback in his state, but what he was able to accomplish at South Carolina during his time there was nothing short of remarkable. He’ll be missed.

The rundown:
No. 7: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt, Sr.
No. 8Michael Sam, DE, Missouri, Sr.
No. 9Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, Sr.
No. 10Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia, Sr.
No. 11Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn, So.
No. 12Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU, So.
No. 13Dee Ford, DE, Auburn, Sr.
No. 14Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia, So.
No. 15Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina, Jr.
No. 16Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU, Jr.
No. 17Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri, Jr.
No. 18T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama, So.
No. 19Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU, Jr.
No. 20Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss, Jr.
No. 21Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn, Jr.
No. 22Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr.
No. 23Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State, Sr.
No. 24Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt, Sr.
No. 25E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri, Jr.