By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — One thing is for certain as ninth-ranked Clemson prepares for No. 12 South Carolina this coming Saturday in Death Valley, whatever defensive coordinator Brent Venables did against Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel earlier this season, he is not going to do against the Gamecocks’ Connor Shaw.
Like Manuel, South Carolina’s quarterback is a duel threat guy that has been known to use his legs from time-to-time to make big plays.
“Whatever plan we used against Manuel, we don’t want to use that one this week,” Venables said.
Manuel had 482 total yards against the Tigers on Sept. 22, including 102 on the ground, while throwing for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s obvious, just look at college football and guys that are in the NFL,” Venables said. “Guys that are not one dimensional, some guys are just runners, some guys are just throwers, but when guys can do both, it makes it that much difficult and that much stressful in all facets of your defense.”
Few quarterbacks have stressed out the Tigers as much as Shaw did in last year’s 31-13 victory over Clemson. The junior rushed for 107 yards and threw for 210 more while accounting for four touchdowns.
“We have to close the pocket down and don’t leave any run lanes for him,” Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman said. “If he gets out, he can throw the DBs off of their responsibilities and it will mess are whole scheme up.
“You have to play sound football and stay in your lanes and squeeze the pocket.”
That’s easier said than done. Shaw butchered the Tigers (10-1) last year on third down runs, especially with runs after Clemson rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to tie the game in the second quarter.
“It’s hard to stop him,” Goodman said. “A lot of times you don’t account for a quarterback being a runner. Like this past week, (Mike) Glennon would never scramble. If you went inside and left a big lane open outside he was still trying to throw the ball.
“Now you have a quarterback who likes to run too. You have to account for all of that and have someone on him.”
Though there are reports coming out of Columbia Tuesday that Shaw has not practiced the last two days due to a foot injury, Clemson isn’t taking any chances. Despite rushing for only 10 yards on 18 carries against Wofford last Saturday, the Tigers understand they have to play the Gamecocks signal caller as if he is 100 percent healthy.
“We have to get a lot of pressure up front from our front four guys and contain him when he starts to scramble,” linebacker Corico Wright said. “We have to do a great job of getting him on the ground. He has unbelievable skills when he runs the ball. We have to do a great job getting to the ball and rally to him when he takes off and runs on third down.”
So far this season, Shaw has rushed for 339 yards and has scored three touchdowns, while also throwing for 1,732 yards with 15 touchdown passes. The best attribute is the fact he is a winner. Whether he is injured or not, he always guts it out and is one of the more respected players in the USC locker room.
“Hats off to him for what he has done for that team and that offense,” Wright said. “He has done a great job with them.”
Shaw is 16-3 as a starter at South Carolina.
“He has had great success the last two years. I think you just look at their team success and it is reflecting of the quarterback play,” Venables said. “He will obviously be a huge challenge and one our guys are very aware of.
“He was a big part of their success against us last year with his running and throwing ability both. We have a big challenge.”