The Gamecocks offense isn't quite ready to take the next step yet. Connor Shaw entered the fall as the undisputed starting quarterback. He finished last season completing more than 70% of his passes in the last 3 games of the season. It was hoped that his continued development along with the return of Marcus Lattimore would spur the offense to more production. That idea is on hold, for now.
Despite his first carry, Lattimore had a productive opening night and was named SEC offensive player of the week. He appears to be fully healed and should continue to put up All-SEC type numbers. His production won't reach All-American or Heisman levels unless a passing game develops.
On Thursday night South Carolina threw for the fewest yards of the Spurrier era. 7 completions netted 67 yards and allowed the Commodores to focus almost exclusively on the run in the second half. Connor Shaw's injury obviously didn't help, but he actually looked a little better after the injury than before.
Early reports this week indicate that Shaw will miss the first half of this week's practices, and maybe more. It goes without saying that the more time Shaw spends recovering from his injury, the longer it will take for the offense to come around.
Dylan Thompson will still be the backup, but he didn't seem to be ready to come in and sling the ball around. He'll benefit from increased reps in practice, but how much can Gamecock fans realistically expect from him in the passing game? Further, he isn't as mobile as Shaw is (though he can run some), so defenses won't be too afraid of him.
USC can expect defense to commit 8 defenders to the box to try to sell out to try to stop the run. The only way to stop them from doing that is to throw the ball. Screens can only be of so much help; a downfield passing game will be necessary. There is no Sidney Rice or Alshon Jeffrey to lob the ball up to and pray, but one must emerge. If Ace Sanders is going to be the go to guy, then that'd be great. If it's going to be Shaq Roland, that's fine too, but it must be someone, and it must be soon.
East Carolina doesn't boast the best defense, or frankly, the best athletes. UAB won't quite be on the Pirates level when they come to town in two weeks. For those two games Carolina can probably grind out victories by using all three running backs to wear out the defense. If the defense plays well and special teams are adequate, South Carolina can win without much of a passing game.
An offense could develop and if any of the last few seasons are any indication an offense will eventually develop, complete with a passing game. However for the next few games think traditional Chicago Bears. Great defense and just enough of a running game. That'll get us to where we need to be.
Get more great South Carolina football analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.