Greeson: Gamecocks' Shaw a quiet star

Greeson: Gamecocks' Shaw a quiet star

January 4th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Connor Shaw may be the best NFL prospect to play quarterback to play for Steve Spurrier.

Think about it -- and considering that Rex Grossman is likely the highest pro hurdle of the Spurrier regime that Shaw has to clear, saying he has the most NFL potential of an Ole Ball Coach pupil is underselling Shaw. That of course is nothing new -- Shaw has been undersold his entire career.

Look at his resume: South Carolina is 33-6 in the final three years of Shaw's career with three 11-win seasons. Know how many 11-win seasons South Carolina had before Shaw and Spurrier linked up? Bagel.

Plus, Shaw worked the last three years in the shadows of arguably the greatest collection of SEC QB talent in the league's rich history. A.J. McCarron won two national titles. Johnny Football won a Heisman. Aaron Murray set every meaningful SEC passing record.

And then there's Connor Shaw, who just meandered along and won football games because he's a football player that makes football plays.

And Shaw has very good NFL potential, especially considering the following three things are going to work greatly in his favor:

1) He has experience and expertise running a complex offense. Spurrier does not use the "Everybody get open on 2" offense.

2) The spread-type tendencies moving to the NFL in several locales, which means a) NFL teams will need QBs that can run, and Shaw can; b) NFL teams will need QBs who are comfortable in the spread, and Shaw is; and c) NFL teams will need reliable back-up QBs, and Shaw most definitely is that. (Side note: This also bodes well for the NFL future of one Jacob Huesman, but that's a different discussion for a later date.)

3) The success of Russell Wilson will only increase the chances that someone is going to spend a third-round pick on Shaw and be tickled pink with the result.

Shaw is far from the only guy to leave a lasting impression from this bowl season -- some good, some bad.

Let's look at a few other guys that made statements in the bowl season:

1) Johnny Manziel. He eliminated any doubt about his status as a top-10 overall QB in this draft. Dude made plays, played with passion and showed leadership in the moment.

2) Blake Bortles. The UCF quarterback had sky-rocketed up draft boards in the latter half of the season, and in the Fiesta Bowl, Bortles showed why he has a girlfriend so striking that UCF coach George O'Leary said earlier this week "deserves 6 million Google" searches. Dude will get paid.

3) Teddy Bridgewater. The Louisville quarterback cemented his spot as the No. 1 overall quarterback in this draft with an efficient and precise showing against Miami. Bridgewater shredded a disinterested Hurricanes bunch to the tune of 447 yards and four touchdowns in last weekend's Russell Athletic Bowl.

4) Oklahoma. The Sooners and quarterback Trevor Knight just jumped 10 spots in the preseason polls with a win over Alabama. And yes, Knight, the OU freshman who went from possible starter to Sugar Bowl MVP with a 32-for-44 night for 348 yards and four TDs, will be on the short list of Heisman candidates to start 2014.

And four that likely cost themselves some money with questionable bowl showings:

1) Jordan Lynch. The Northern Illinois quarterback who was a Heisman darkhorse for much of the season was completely shutdown by the Utah State defense. Yes, Utah State. If he could have been viewed as a "Swiss Army" knife guy by NFL scouts in November when he was running and passing for big numbers against weaker foes, he now is a free agent signee with serious questions about if he has a position at the next level.

2) Mike Evans. The Texas A&M wideout had two huge personal-foul penalties and let his emotions get the best of him in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. First-round talent for sure, but is he mature enough for that lofty a pick?

Tied for 3) Cyrus Koundajio and AJ McCarron. Cyrus is projected as a first-rounder, but the Alabama tackle was blitzed by an Oklahoma pass rush that left him looking slow and vulnerable. Under that pressure, McCarron managed to complete better than 60 percent of his passes for 387 yards in Alabama's Sugar Bowl loss. Those numbers are good. But it was also the first time he has faced serious pass-rushing pressure and he had three turnovers. How did you perceive his performance?

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.