As Clemson and South Carolina prepare to clash on Saturday night in Death Valley, we take a look at…
Will Shaw be able to go?
"He threw it around a little bit," quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said. "He's better and we'll see. He did move around a lot better today. It's one of those things that he's had it every week. He didn't tweak anything in the Arkansas game and he tweaked it a little bit against Wofford so it's taking a couple of days. We'll see how he feels."
Shaw has battled injury throughout the 2012 season, his first full season as starting quarterback. Late in the first half of the season-opener against Vanderbilt, Shaw innocently dove forward for a few extra yards on a scramble. As he dove, the knee of a Vanderbilt defender hit his shoulder. It was later revealed that he suffered a crack in his shoulder, despite trying to return two weeks later against UAB. Shaw was injured at the end of the first half in the UAB game, but has started every game since and has not been removed from a game due to injury.
"It's nagging stuff, but he's a tough kid and I commend him for what he's done during the season," Mangus said.
If, for whatever reason, Shaw is unable to go Saturday against the Tigers, back-up quarterback Dylan Thompson would get the nod. Thompson looked great in his only start against ECU and in the second half of the UAB game, but struggled when he was thrust into the Vanderbilt game after Shaw's injury and in the second half of the 44-11 drubbing at the hands of Florida.
"Dylan is a little sneakier running around than people give him credit for," Mangus said. "He's not Connor and there's not a lot of guys that can run around like he can, but Dylan's gotten most of the reps the last couple of days and he's thrown it well. He knows how to get into most of the run plays when needed and mentally he's ready to roll. We'll get him some more reps and hopefully they'll both be ready to go."
While Carolina has been worried about injuries to its star players on both sides of the ball with Marcus Lattimore done for the season and Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney battling foot/ankle injuries, Clemson has been hit by the injury bug as well. The Tigers are now down two starting cornerbacks after Bashuad Breeland was ruled out earlier in the week.
"They have plenty of guys to go play," Mangus said. "This time of the year, I don't think anybody goes into a game 100 percent. Everybody has guys dealing with this or fighting that."
That is particularly troubling for a Tiger defense that has been gashed all season through the air. Just last week NC State threw for 493 yards and five touchdowns against a Tiger defense that is ranked 74th in the nation in passing defense with 245 yards given up per game. One of the consequences for an offense that scores quickly is that the defense stays on the field for many more snaps than a team with a predominantly running attack. Just last week Clemson's defense was on the field 88 plays against the Wolfpack that included three one-snap scoring drives. Against a Wofford option attack, South Carolina was on the field for 63 snaps and the Terriers were on the field for 62.
"We have to stay on the field and pick up first downs and be efficient," Mangus said. "It all fits into the overall way that you win a football game. If we do our job and make first downs and stay on the field it will help our defense and help our overall cause."
While it's still not known if Shaw will be able to play and a decision may not come until Saturday afternoon, if you're a betting man the safe money is on Shaw to start.
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