HOOVER, Ala. — South Carolina free safety D.J. Swearinger says Connor Shaw is “quiet, except that he gets on his offensive linemen when they mess up.”
Now that’s what Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has been talking about all these years, silence that speaks volumes.
The perfect fit for a noted quarterback guru who strangely has grown the Gamecock program for seven seasons without having a reliable passer for any significant stretch.
Until now, Spurrier believes. Believes strongly enough to have packed Shaw along for an SEC Media Days trip. It’s an annual visit to the Wynfrey Hotel for Spurrier, but this is the first July in his South Carolina tenure that he’s included a quarterback in the Gamecocks’ SEC Media Days player contingent.
That Shaw seemed a bit reluctant Tuesday makes him all the more appealing to Spurrier. Already, the Head Ball Coach was enjoying an unexpectedly sudden transformation, a suspect backup turned into the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback of a program coming of its first 11-win season.
Extra passing drills
Unlike most South Carolina quarterbacks of yesteryear, Shaw has a winning record against Clemson (1-0).
Unlike predecessor Stephen Garcia, he has a winning bowl record (beat Nebraska on a sunny day in Orlando).
Best of all: Shaw has spent the offseason anticipating the adjustments he knows opposing defenses will make to counter the kind of success he had down the stretch of the 2011 season.
The 6-1, 207-pound junior from Flowery Branch, Ga., went 7-1 as a starter after taking over for the benched and banished Garcia.
But he might not get away with as many long runs through open field this year, and might not have to.
“I know teams are going to scheme me up based on what I did,” Shaw said. “That’s why I know I have to rely more on my arm than I did on my legs last year.”
Shaw kept improving as the season got longer, throwing for over 200 yards in wins against The Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska while piling up rushing yardage — 90 against The Citadel, 107 vs. Clemson, 42 in the Capital One Bowl.
“After a few games,” Shaw said, “I realized I had to adapt and in games and in practice, I just started running.”
The chess match for 2012 starts with extra passing drills.
“I’m not going to take my legs away me, but I’m definitely going to rely on my arm more,” Shaw said.
Not that he was embarrassing last year. Guess who (quietly, of course) finished third in the SEC in pass efficiency?
Only to get a full blast of Spurrier input this spring.
Life at the circus
“I knew coming in that he critiques his quarterback hard,” Shaw said. “You just have to listen to what he has to say. I learned a lot under Garcia, too. He was a good teammate of mine, and once I got my opportunity, I took advantage of it.”
So there he was in Hoover on Tuesday, looking sharp if squirming some in suit and tie.
“It’s an honor to be invited here,” Shaw said. “I’m not big on media or preseason hype. I just want to go ahead and focus on what I have to do on the field.”
Spurrier explained how he picks players for the SEC Media Days media circus.
“First of all, guys we think represent our university and football program in a first-class manner,” he said.
Tuesday that was Ace Sanders and Swearinger. And a quarterback.
There was no specific mention of Stephen Garcia and his multiple off-the-field issues, but the comparison was obvious.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff.