Badgers call Connor Shaw the 'heartbeat' of Gamecocks' offense
ORLANDO, Fla. - Connor Shaw has been noticeably quiet this week in Orlando, electing not to speak with the media before the final game of his career.
It hasn't prevented others from talking about the Gamecocks' senior quarterback.
So far, Wisconsin's defensive strategy against Shaw has been to shower him with praise. All-American linebacker Chris Borland compared Shaw to Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda offered compliment after compliment during his news conference Monday.
"The thing that's striking about the offense is the quarterback," Aranda said. "He runs it. He is the heartbeat of it. He's the guy that we're going to have to try and stop."
No. 8 South Carolina will play No. 19 Wisconsin at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl. Aranda said successfully defending the Gamecocks' offense starts with limiting Shaw's effectiveness.
The Badgers will try to pressure Shaw in the pocket. Then, it gets tricky. Shaw rushed for 511 yards this season. Wisconsin is aware of his speed on the ground.
"While you (pressure him), don't let him out of the pocket," Aranda said. "Those two things don't always go hand in hand, and so it's difficult to accomplish. I think the mix is the best thing. The mix is the answer in my mind, whether it's going from man to zone to four-man to three-man.
"So we'll see how all that goes. We were talking earlier today. I think a lot of people have tried, and not a lot of people have been successful."
While Wisconsin prepares for Shaw's physical ability, coach Gary Andersen said he's impressed with the quarterback's mental approach to the game.
Wisconsin will try to disguise its defense against Shaw, hoping the senior doesn't know what's coming. Andersen said it'll be a challenge.
"If you just look at Connor and watch him play football, what comes to my mind is, 'Coach's kid.' Which, he is," Andersen said. "He's competitive. He can hurt you with his arm, his legs and his mind. He has a lot of miles on him as far as starts, and he's been very productive. He's played in big-time moments and handles himself well. And I would say this: When you mix Coach Spurrier and Shaw together in that offense, it's a pretty vicious weapon and I think pre-snap most times they're getting what they want.
"Hopefully we can at least confuse them a little bit. It's hard to confuse Shaw because he's such a savvy, smart kid."
Clowney to become 'instant pro'
While the final month of Jadeveon Clowney's career hasn't been smooth - with the All-American defensive end receiving two speeding tickets in December - Spurrier thanked him Tuesday for his effort and impact over the past three years.
Clowney to become 'instant pro'
Spurrier knows Clowney is entering his final college game. He understands the significance, both for Clowney and the Gamecocks' football program.
"We were all wondering if he's got a limo to take him out of the ballpark (Wednesday) or not," Spurrier said. "We were kidding him about all the autograph people. Wait 'til after the game, and then he could start charging for his autograph. But, yeah, he'll be an instant pro when the game's over. He's looking forward to it, and we wish him the best."
Byrd, McLaurin out with injuries
South Carolina's offense will be missing two starters in the Capital One Bowl, both sidelined with injuries.
Junior receiver Damiere Byrd tore his meniscus in practice before Christmas, an injury that requires knee surgery. He'll be out five to six weeks before returning in the spring.
Byrd was the Gamecocks' second-leading receiver with 33 catches for 575 yards and four touchdowns, but passing game coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said his loss will be felt more on special teams.
"The way we put our plan together will not change with the loss of Damiere," Spurrier Jr. said. "Where we will feel the loss is on special teams. He does an excellent job on two or three cover teams that he'll be hard to replace. But, offensively, we'll do our best and Nick (Jones) is ready to play, and he's a good solid player."
South Carolina also will be without starting fullback Connor McLaurin, who Spurrier said "cracked" his ankle in Monday's practice. Walk-on Garrison Gist will replace McLaurin. Sophomore tailback Brandon Wilds could also see some plays at fullback.