The big weapon for the Gamecocks this season has been running back Mike Davis, a 5-9, 215-pound sophomore. Davis carried the load last year when Marcus Lattimore went down and he's front and center in the USC offense this season.
"He's not overly big," Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said Wednesday after practice. "But he runs hard and he's hard to tackle. Then, they have a quarterback who doesn't throw interceptions and has an extraordinary feel for the game."
"It doesn't matter the down," Arkansas linebacker coach Randy Shannon said. "Shaw is going to take off. He does it on first down, second down and third down."
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said Shaw's runs come in a variety of ways.
"Some of them are clearly called quarterback runs," Partridge said. "He takes a step back and then ducks into a hole. You are accounting for everyone else, but you have to account for him.
"But the tough ones are when he does actually drop back to pass. He does look for a key and he'll throw it. But if he doesn't like that first key, he knows where he is going and it's a run. He's got a great feel.
"Shaw creates challenges for our defensive front. You want to go after him with a big pass rush, but you may have to cut down the rush a bit and maintain lanes. No question, he's looking for the lanes. He wants you to bite to the outside and he's going to hurt you in the middle. It's another mobile quarterback and that can be difficult."
The Hogs are in a difficult stretch. They've lost three straight and face two more ranked teams before they get to an open date. How do you coach through the disappointment?
"They are very disappointed," Partridge said. "But the kids have bought in to what we've preached, the one play at a time. That helps whether you are in a winning streak or a losing streak. It's about the process and they understand that. They have bought in."
Competition helps, too. The Hogs have lots of interesting battles on the defensive front. It will come in handy as Partridge rotates ends and tackles against Davis and Shaw.
"Deatrich Wise has come along in the last two weeks," Partridge said. "I think most people have noticed Darius Philon's progress, but Deatrich has done nice things, too. JaMichael Winston has had two good weeks, too. I thought LaMarcus Hodge had a nice ame last week. The competition with those guys and our starters should pay huge dividends this week and as we move forward."
Starting defensive end Chris Smith sees the competition. Playing time is a big motivation for hard work in practice.
"We are all working hard," he said. "I know everyone is excited for this week. We know it's an important game. Everyone is excited."
Smith said Shaw's running ability makes for a tough challenge.
"He can see down the field and make that throw to the wide receiver," Smith said. "Then, he's a great runner if he doesn't see what he likes. I think many in our league look past him because of Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray. Shaw is very good, too.
"And, Shaw is very tough. I've watched him on TV and seen him get his shoulder hurt and he's back out there very quickly. He's a tough, tough kid.
"Coach Partridge talks to us all the time about our pass rush and the ratio between inside and out. We have to stick to our lanes. Shaw can make you pay."
The Hogs are trying to find a starting cornerback after Will Hines went down with a broken arm against Florida. Head coach Bret Bielema said Jared Collins, Carroll Washington and D. J. Dean are all in the mix for the spot opposite Tevin Mitchel. Ash said he's not decided.
"I think Collins has a little bit of an edge," Ash said. "But I want to see another day of practice."
Ash said the Hogs have had a good start to practice, with heavy emphasis on tackling in space. Florida converted two touchdowns on short pass plays that developed into long runs.
"They have three good similar receivers and all of them are quick," Ash said. "We have to do a great job of tackling in space, something we didn't do well last week."