COLUMBIA — Connor Shaw has a lighter side.
He just doesn’t show it very often.
Instead, he spends most of his time grinding, always seeking to get better as a football player as he begins his first full season as a starting quarterback in the SEC.
South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus quickly saw the results of Shaw’s hard work over the summer when preseason camp opened 19 days ago.
“He showed up ready to roll in August and had a great summer,” Mangus said on Monday. “That was evident from the get-go. Here we are three weeks in and he’s had a nice camp. Connor is ready to roll and we expect him to play well when we tee it up.”
Even though Shaw has a reputation for being a superior runner over his throwing abilities, he enters the season with a career completion percentage of 66.1 percent (146-of-211), which ranks first on USC’s all-time list for quarterbacks with a minimum of 150 pass attempts.
Twice last season, Shaw captured SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors, first in October when he completed 26-of-39 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns (most by a Gamecock quarterback in a single game since Blake Mitchell in 2006) in the 54-3 rout over hapless Kentucky.
Later, he shared Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors after USC’s dominating win over Clemson when he connected on 14-of-20 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for a career-high 107 yards.
Shaw scored a rushing touchdown in each of the last six games, a streak he will try to preserve in the Aug. 30 season opener at Vanderbilt.
As a quarterback, Shaw has proven that he can perform at the highest level.
Now, if he would only loosen up and smile for the cameras a little bit more.
“He’s got a little quiet humorous side to him that I like,” Mangus said. “But Connor is a guy that knows when it’s time to get to work and when it’s time not to get to work. He likes to work more than most. He’s a good kid that can have a laugh or two here and there. He gets it done when he’s out here between the white lines.”
Shaw’s work ethic is partly the product of growing up in a football family. His father was his high school coach in Flowery Branch, Ga., and his older brother Jaybo Shaw played at Georgia Tech and later at Georgia Southern.
“He loves football, and when you love football the way he loves it, you’re going to have fun,” Mangus said. “Just because you may not be a laugher and a giggler and all that kind of stuff, I assure you that he has a good time playing football. He loves it.”
When spring practice ended, Mangus met with each quarterback individually. At that time, Mangus established some goals for Shaw pertaining to the upcoming season, not all of them quantifiable.
“Connor’s big thing was just taking a more vocal leadership role,” Mangus said. “Playing the games comes natural to him. The more plays and more reps he gets, he’s going to continue getting better. He’s just one of those guys. But I think he has done that in terms of the leadership role and getting more vocal and checking plays on his own and becoming more of a communicator out there on the field. That comes with age and reps. It’s good to see that’s something he has done here early.”
USC began formal preparations for Vanderbilt on Monday as it began to finalize the strategy on how to attack a Commodores defense that suffered some key personnel losses one year after finishing tied for second in the SEC with 19 interceptions.
The Vanderbilt secondary lost two productive starters in All-America cornerback Casey Hayward and three-year starting safety Sean Richardson. Hayward finished his career with a share of the school’s all-time interceptions record and was drafted by Green Bay in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Two secondary starters return for Vanderbilt — senior cornerback Trey Wilson and junior safety Javon Marshall. Wilson tied a team record with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2011.
“We’re throwing it around a little better and just starting to get to work on actual game plans and stuff,” Mangus said. “The kids have had a good camp. They’ve worked hard. They showed up ready to go and it seems like they’re having fun going to work every day we come out here. Hopefully, we’ll see the results of that next Thursday.”
USC Sunday practice recap
Ninth-ranked South Carolina held its 25th practice of the fall on Sunday, and GamecockCentral.com was there.
* Connor Shaw practiced fully with no pain, as he did on Saturday. Steve Spurrier said that Shaw’s back was fine.
* Sheldon Royster is no longer a part of USC’s team and will transfer, Spurrier confirmed. Spurrier did not say why or where Royster might be headed. He quipped, “So was Tanner McEvoy,” when pointed out that his New Jersey connection seems to be having some trouble keeping players on the team, but grouping Royster with McEvoy, Cadarious Sanders and suspended players Sharrod Golightly and J.T. Surratt, he said, “Am I supposed to worry about guys that have never played?” He said he wasn’t happy that it didn’t work out at USC for any of the transferring players, but it is what it is.
* With two open scholarships (Royster was one of them), the Gamecocks placed fifth-year senior safety Jared Shaw and junior Travis Ford on scholarship. Shaw is a backup to D.J. Swearinger at free safety and Ford is a third-string center behind T.J. Johnson and Kyle Harris.
* D.L. Moore returned to practice after a groin pull, as did Reginald Bowens. Phillip Dukes (concussion) also practiced fully. Kirk Botkin said that Bowens and Shaq Wilson remain his starting linebackers. Moore, Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders are slated to start on Thursday, with Damiere Byrd and Shaq Roland behind them.
* Brandon Wilds (ankle) remains sidelined, “for 2-3 weeks,” Spurrier said. He won’t travel to Vanderbilt. If he doesn’t heal up quickly, a redshirt season is a possibility, but that depends on the other running backs producing. Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles are set to take the majority of the snaps on Thursday.
* Place-kicker Adam Yates has switched from No. 81 to No. 52.
* Kickoff specialist Landon Ard has switched from No. 47 to No. 19.
* The Gamecocks will wear white jerseys with garnet pants on Thursday.
* Players in yellow or who did not practice due to injury were: Shon Carson (wrist), Akeem Auguste (groin), Wilds (ankle), Marcquis Roberts (knee), Drew Owens (knee), Rico McWilliams (knee), Jacob Baker (knee) and Kendric Salley (knee).
* The next practice is at 4:15 p.m. on Monday. It is closed to the public. Steve Spurrier will hold his first press conference at noon on Monday as well.