1. Dual-Threat Shaw
South Carolina’s Connor Shaw hasn’t received the same type of attention as other Southeastern Conference star quarterbacks Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray or AJ McCarron. But Arkansas defensive coordinator Chris Ash said it doesn’t take star power for the Razorbacks to realize the quarterback will be challenging Saturday.
“He’s very dangerous,” Ash said. “I went back and watched every SEC game from last year and he beats a lot of people with his feet. Especially on third down. They do a lot of quarterback draws with him. So he’s a danger.
“Again, he’s not Johnny Manziel type of a guy but he’s pretty darn good.”
Shaw is quietly enjoying a big season. The senior has completed 66 of 96 passes (68.8 percent) for 927 yard and has thrown 7 touchdown passes without an interception. He’s also second on the team in rushing with 282 yards.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier believes Shaw does get overlooked because the Gamecocks don’t throw the ball as much as other SEC teams. But Shaw is among the SEC’s best in quarterback efficiency, ranking fifth with a 173.9 rating.
Spurrier said the combination of Shaw and running back Mike Davis, who leads the SEC in rushing yards a game (122.8), has been effective for the Gamecocks.
“We throw it a lot to get down there, but we feel pretty good about running it in,” Spurrier said. “So his totals are not way up there. But he is a heck of a player that can run with the ball and avoid the bad plays. He’s really good at avoiding the fumbles and the careless plays. … It is the reason we have won a bunch of games.”
Arkansas also is impressed by Shaw’s toughness. The quarterback suffered a shoulder injury in South Carolina’s 28-25 win against Central Florida on Sept. 28.
The injury was expected to keep Shaw sidelined for at least one game, but he was back on the field for last week’s win against Kentucky. So defensive end Chris Smith knows they’re facing a competitor at quarterback Saturday.
“I think he gets overlooked in the SEC with the Manziels, the McCarrons and the Aaron Murrays,” Smith said. “But he’s a real good quarterback.”
2. Sack Attack
Smith remembers the last time South Carolina came to Razorback Stadium.
He watched former Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette turn in a dominating performance with three sacks and a forced fumble during the Razorbacks’ 44-28 win. So Smith — who was Bequette’s backup that season — said he wouldn’t mind duplicating the big day when the teams meet again Saturday.
“Actually I was watching film on that from my sophomore year and how he did that,” Smith said. “I’m going to try to just lay my ears back and go.”
Bequette, who was a senior in 2011, was a handful for South Carolina’s offensive line in Arkansas’ win. His third and final sack of Shaw was a violent one, too. Bequette came untouched from the left side and forced a fumble with the hit.
Shaw was knocked out of the game with a concussion, while the Razorbacks tacked on the final touchdown to secure their fifth straight win.
Smith said Arkansas plans to pressure on Shaw once again with a pass rush that has collected an SEC-best 17 sacks in six games. The senior leads the SEC with six sacks.
But Smith said there is one detail he’d like to avoid in his pursuit Saturday.
“I want to keep everybody healthy,” Smith said. “I’m just going to try to go out there and get pressure.”
3. Washington Will Start
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said Carroll Washington will earn his first start at cornerback, earning the nod over Jared Collins and DJ Dean.
Bielema said Washington has taken advantage of extended repetitions in the weeks since Collins suffered a concussion against Southern Miss.
“That exposed Carroll to a lot of reps that week during practice,” Bielema said. “He capitalized on it and continued to do so. He has done a good job for us on special teams. So I am excited to see him get out there and play.”
Bielema said both Collins and Dean will play as well Saturday as Arkansas replaces sophomore Will Hines, who suffered a fractured arm at Florida.
4. Clowney Traveling
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will start Saturday’s game if healthy enough to play, according to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.
Ward said Clowney – who missed last Saturday’s game because of a strained muscle near his ribcage — completed his second straight day of practice Thursday.
“I think he’ll play based on what we’ve seen the last two days,” Ward said, according to the Associated Press. “He’s gotten better. He’s still getting a lot of treatment and he’ll continue to get a lot of treatment.”
Clowney has 12 tackles and 2 sacks in four games this season.