Top 10: #3 - Connor Shaw

For South Carolina to reach its goals in the 2012 season, 10 players have to step up and have a big year. We begin the top 10 today and will conclude with the #1 player prior to the opening game against Vanderbilt. Today we take a look at the #3 player, Connor Shaw

3. Connor Shaw

For the first time in his three seasons on campus, this is Connor Shaw's team. There is no controversy and no looking over his shoulders. There's not as much worry about being pulled out of a game if he is struggling, though Steve Spurrier has always been quick to pull a struggling quarterback. There's no doubt that this is his team this season.

After winning the quarterback battle in 2011, Shaw struggled a bit in the first quarter of the East Carolina game. As Spurrier had previously state, Stephen Garcia would play the second quarter and a decision on who the starter would be made at halftime. There was no doubt Garcia was the man at the time, but he would struggle the next four games. After a disappointing 16-13 loss to Auburn at home, the decision was made to give the ball to Shaw for the Kentucky game. Shaw responded by completing 26-of-39 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns, with an additional 42 yards rushing. It was Shaw's team at that point and remains Shaw's team entering the 2012 season.

"He showed up ready to roll in August," quarterback coach G.A. Mangus said. "He had a great summer and you could tell that from the get-go. Connor is ready to roll and we expect he will play well."

Shaw had a solid season last year after taking over the starting job for the final eight games. Shaw was 123-of-188 for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns as he led the Gamecocks to a 7-1 finish en route to their record 11 wins. He did throw six interceptions on the season, but that is not really a high number with an average of one interception for every 31 pass attempts. He also added 525 yards rushing and eight more touchdowns on 135 carries. He had a career-high 107 rushing yards in the regular season finale in the win over rival Clemson.

Shaw did lose his leading receiver when Alshon Jeffery chose to enter the NFL draft last season. He still has several weapons in Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, and D.L. Moore as well as newcomer Shaq Roland. Opponents also cannot forget about Marcus Lattimore out of the backfield who has been dangerous when catching the ball.

There's no doubt Shaw's numbers will improve this season just for the fact that he will start every game and take a majority of the snaps as long as he is healthy. If Shaw can reach the 2,000 yard mark and 20 touchdown passes while limiting the interceptions again this season, he will certainly have an exceptional season. He could also realistically reach 700 yards and another eight or nine touchdowns on the ground. If he can put up those numbers he will find himself in the running for several awards and South Carolina will be very difficult to beat.

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