ATHENS - Everyone knows about Marcus Lattimore, and a big part of Georgia's defensive plan has to be geared around keeping the star tailback in check. But Connor Shaw, South Carolina's starting quarterback, is a close second in terms of a running headache.
Shaw is South Carolina's second-leading rusher this season, as many Georgia defensive players have pointed out this week. Shaw has 203 net rushing yards this year, in just four games, and that includes 43 yards lost through sacks.
In defending Shaw, according to various players, the big worry is that the quarterback does a lot of his throwing while on the run. So when he does leave the pocket, that doesn't mean the defense can assume the run.
“He’s been a real playmaker with his running, really getting downfield and getting good yards,” Georgia senior defensive end Abry Jones said. “But you also get scared with his running skill, I’ve seen teams react more to his running skill and he gets the ball off, while he’s running the wide receivers are able to get the ball off downfield, and he’s able to hit them downfield. So that’s definitely something we have to look out for.”
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“He doesn’t really throw in the pocket, he likes to throw on the move a little bit," Georgia freshman linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "That just means he’s running out of the pocket and throwing. I think we’re probably gonna end up keying on that.”
Georgia is used to facing a running quarterback from South Carolina, having dealt with Stephen Garcia the past few years. But Shaw is a more refined runner, the Bulldogs say.
“We have to do well first and second down, make it a third-down play, and make Shaw make a throw and keep him in the pocket," senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. "Because he makes a lot of his throws on the run. That’s a big thing for us. He’s faster than Garcia. He’s doing really better I’d say to this point from my experience playing Garcia. So that makes him more dangerous.”
The Bulldogs have faced a running quarterback this year, Missouri's James Franklin, and held him in check. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham admitted after the game that they essentially wanted to make Franklin win with his arm and take away his running ability.
But Grantham sees Shaw as a different kind of runner.
"He's really quick. You know, Franklin was really more of an H-back type runner, whereas Shaw's got a little quickness and shake to him, and things like that. So he does a good job," Grantham said.
Grantham also said that Shaw manages the game well and has a good head for the game. That gives the Gamecocks two playmakers in the ground game, between Shaw and Lattimore.
There's only one consolation for Georgia.
"You've only got one ball," Grantham said.