COLUMBIA— South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said starting quarterback Connor Shaw can barely lift his right arm and will miss the next few days of practice.
“It’s wait and see right now,” Spurrier said Sunday.
Shaw was injured when he took a helmet to his right shoulder in the ninth-ranked Gamecocks’ season-opening, 17-13 victory at Vanderbilt last Thursday night. Shaw was diagnosed with a deep bone bruise. The hopeful news, Spurrier said, was that there was no damage to the shoulder joint. Still, Shaw won’t practice until at least Wednesday and that puts his status for Saturday’s home opener against East Carolina (1-0) in serious doubt.
“It’s just painful for him,” Spurrier said. “And he has trouble lifting his arm right now so it’s pretty hard to play quarterback.”
Spurrier said trainers and doctors say Shaw’s shouldermight “loosen up” in three or four days. If things don’t improve, the Gamecocks would most likely go with backup passer Dylan Thompson.
Shaw “won’t play if he’s not healthy,” Spurrier said.
South Carolina was also holding its breath entering the game over how star tailback Marcus Lattimore’s surgically repaired left knee would hold up in its first game action since he was injured at Mississippi State last October. The answer was just fine, Spurrier said.
Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He’s had no swelling or other issues with the knee since returning home, Spurrier said. Lattimore acknowledge a few butterflies that led to a fumble the first time he touched the ball, but the junior tailback settled down and again led the way for South Carolina.
Spurrier said a friend of his said this past weekend Lattimore didn’t look like his old, powerhouse self. Spurrier chuckled. “I said if you had about two defensive guys and an offensive lineman standing there waiting on you, there was nowhere to run,” the coach said. “When there was a little bit to run, he made yards and he made some outstanding runs.”
Shaw, despite the injury, returned to the game and led the Gamecocks on their final touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that put them ahead for good. Shaw finished with 92 yards rushing. He was also 7 of 11 passing, but much of that success came before getting hurt.
“Shaw is a tough kid,” Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham said. “I was really impressed with his toughness.”
It remains to be seen if Shaw, a coach’s son raised to play through difficult conditions, can fight through his injury to play against the Pirates.
Spurrier wants to see drastic improvement in the passing game, no matter who’s under center for South Carolina.
Shaw’s strength is his running ability and the Gamecocks leaned heavily on that last season after Lattimore was lost to injury and starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team midway through the year. Shaw was 8-1 as a starter last season and South Carolina won a program-record 11 games.
But Spurrier had worked hard with Shaw in the off-season to stay in the pocket and not look to run so much. The coach liked what he’d seen all summer — until facing Vanderbilt.
“It was an ugly offensive game,” Spurrier said. “Marcus had some runs and Connor had some runs and we were able somehow to get 17 (points) out of it and somehow won the game. But it was not exciting to watch.”
The Gamecocks depth on the offensive line took a hit with the sprained ankle of Brandon Shell, the 6-foot-6, 331-pound redshirt freshman who is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell. Brandon Shell started against Vanderbilt, but was back in a walking boot and his status for this week also won’t be known for several days, Spurrier said.
‘’It was a little bit of everything,” Spurrier said of his offense. “As coaches, we’ve got to try and fix it. We’ll work on pass protection, we’ll work on quarterback taking his steps and letting it go this week and see if it will help.”