GREENVILLE — East Carolina will try to be ready for anything when it stares down No. 9 South Carolina this Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
But third-year ECU coach Ruffin McNeill isn’t at all in doubt about which quarterback he’ll see when the Gamecocks offense takes the field, even though that quarterback isn’t completely healthy.
“Connor Shaw will be playing,” McNeill said.
Shaw, a junior from Flowery Branch, Ga., suffered a deep bone bruise on his right arm after being hit by a helmet in the Gamecocks’ 17-13 win over Vanderbilt last Thursday.
Shaw will sit out practice at least through Wednesday, Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. There is a chance sophomore backup Dylan Thompson will get the nod if Shaw’s injury doesn’t improve, but McNeill is convinced Shaw will start.
“He’s a football player, a coach’s kid, but they don’t change their offense with either quarterback,” McNeill said. “They have designed quarterback run plays and throw the football.”
They struggled with the latter against Vanderbilt.
Shaw completed 7 of 11 passes for 67 yards and one interception. Thompson briefly replaced Shaw and was 0-for-3, and third-string quarterback Seth Strickland missed his only attempt.
The lack of passing productivity was unprecedented for a Spurrier-led offense, but Shaw and Marcus Lattimore offset it with their legs.
Lattimore ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, and Shaw added 92 yards rushing.
• Suspended players return: McNeill confirmed receivers Danny Webster, Dayon Arrington and Antonio Cannon were back with the team after each served one-game suspensions for the season opener against Appalachian State for violating team rules.
Both Webster and Arrington are on this week’s depth chart in reserve roles.
McNeill said the suspended players were part of a lively, positive and constructive sideline in the win against App State.
“They were enthusiastic, supportive,” he said. “The guys that we knew were not going in the game, that we addressed, did a good job of supporting the guys that were out on the field.”
• Heat wave: McNeill players for their dedication to conditioning, which seemed to pay off in ECU’s 35-13 victory over the Mountaineers. With the heat at its worst in the second half, the Pirates were at their best, turning a 14-13 contest into a blowout in the final two periods.
“I was very proud of our conditioning,” McNeill said. “We had a couple guys have some cramp issues, but not many.”
• Injuries: The biggest injury is the left knee injury sustained by nose tackle Michael Brooks last Saturday. McNeill said the senior’s MRI was to be evaluated later Monday and that he was “hopeful” Brooks could return to make the South Carolina trip. If not, it will be a long day for top reserve Terrell Stanley, a redshirt freshman whose collegiate debut against App State was solid, and included his first-career tackle and fumble recovery.