With preseason football practice starting on Aug. 3, GamecockCentral.com presents a new series that takes a look at three players per day who have either played in at least one game or appear on the post-spring two-deep depth chart.
CONNOR SHAW, sophomore quarterback
Before South Carolina: Connor Shaw was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Flowery Branch (Ga.) High School. He was also offered by East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
The measurables: 6-foot-1, 202 pounds
2010: Another true freshman deemed ready to play immediately, Shaw enrolled in college early and went through spring practice, where he impressed the coaching staff with his readiness and passion for the game. He turned that into a nine-game performance during the season, becoming Stephen Garcia's top backup and completing 23-of-33 passes for 223 yards. Mostly a running QB when he played, Shaw rushed for 165 yards on 32 attempts and threw for one touchdown with two interceptions.
Shaw is already a favorite of the coaching staff, since he's the guy that is always carrying his playbook or a football around and wants nothing more than to play. (When he first arrived on campus, he would drag roommate T.J. Johnson out on the grass in front of the dorm to practice snapping late at night). He was given chances early, and did OK, everyone thinking it was the normal learning curve for a freshman in the SEC. Then came the spring, where Shaw was given the opportunity to really win the starting job after Garcia again ran afoul of the disciplinary rules. Despite being really the most game-tested quarterback on the field, Shaw didn't have a great spring. His learning seemed to stall, and he threw far more interceptions than touchdowns. Had he really taken over the job and showed the coaches that he was ready to take over, perhaps Garcia wouldn't be back or at least be considered the No. 2 guy, but as fall practice dawns, Garcia and Shaw, Steve Spurrier says, will compete for the job. No reason to doubt Garcia will win it, since he's responded when his feet have been in the fire. Shaw will play, but if it's going to be more than go in and run the ball for a few downs, he'll have to show a major improvement in camp.
DEANGELO SMITH, redshirt sophomore receiver
Before South Carolina: DeAngelo Smith was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Camden County (Ga.) High School. He was also offered by East Carolina and Indiana.
The measurables: 6-foot-1, 191 pounds
2010: After missing spring practice when he broke a bone in his foot, Smith hesitantly got on the field for two games. He caught his first (and so far only) career pass against Southern Miss and also played briefly against Furman.
No doubt at all that Smith had an outstanding spring, perhaps the best spring of any player on the roster. Time after time, especially in the scrimmages, there was Smith leaping for the touchdown or out-racing the defense to the end zone, a performance that earned him the Joe Morrison Offensive Player of the Spring. He put an exclamation point on it by catching three touchdowns and 118 yards on a scant four receptions in the spring game, and heads into preseason camp as the backup to Alshon Jeffery. Great spring, but an asterisk: Jeffery sat out much of the spring, since he had already proven what he could do. Smith got all the catches in his absence. Now, that's great for Smith, because he earned a spot on the two-deep, but behind Jeffery, chances for him to duplicate his spring season will be tough. His best chance to play seems to be to separate himself from that role and get in the mix of D.L. Moore/Jason Barnes at one of the other spots, but being rather small in height and weight, there's no guarantee of that happening. Still, he had a great spring and has risen in the eyes of the coaching staff, so perhaps he'll get several looks in fall camp and continue his spring performance.
QUIN SMITH, junior linebacker
Before South Carolina: Quin Smith was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Hibriten (N.C.) High School. He was also offered by East Carolina.
The measurables: 6-foot, 230 pounds
2009: Played in 11 of 13 games but mostly on special teams. Still had six tackles and a blocked punt, while helping sniff out a fake put against Arkansas and dropping the ball-carrier for a loss.
2010: The surprising Smith stepped in as a key backup to record 49 tackles (seventh on the team) and become that guy who was always around the ball. The linebackers, sorely missing Shaq Wilson and with Rodney Paulk limited, got a huge boost from the versatile Smith, who forced two fumbles and had 15 combined tackles over his final two games.
Coming out of the spring as Paulk's top backup at weakside linebacker, don't be surprised if Smith is starting by the end of the season. Not that Paulk doesn't deserve to be given a chance and it's a good bet he'll hold onto it, but Paulk is still ginger from his knee injuries and Smith has become what Paulk was as a freshman -- always around the ball, making plays, making an impact. All Smith really lacks is experience, since he was never constantly in one situation or defensive set and was mostly a stop-gap. He's coming on strong, though, and should be a major factor this year.
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