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Florida vs. South Carolina, Theater of Operations: Taking a look at the Gamecock passing offense

Since Marcus Lattimore is questionable, the Gators' focus could switch to stopping Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks' passing offense.

Ronald Martinez

Theater of Operations is back following about a week-long "vacation." Actually, vacation is a horrible word to use, but hey, I can't really think of anything else.

As the Florida Gators prepared to face the South Carolina Gamecocks this week, I'm sure their game plan was going to be stopping running back Marcus Lattimore. Well, with reports that Lattimore is hurt and will not start (but will travel with the team), that plan has changed.

Up next is quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw has missed a little bit of time, but has led the Gamecocks to the 73rd-ranked passing offense in the country. The problem is, like with our own Jeff Driskel, Shaw can also run the football.

On the year Shaw has completed almost 70 percent of his passes for just over 900 yards and nine touchdowns. He's thrown four interceptions, but that is to be expected in a Steve Spurrier offense, and Shaw also isn't known to be the best decision maker.

Play No. 1: Shaw's 42 yard pass to Damiere Byrd against Georgia


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Byrd is just going to run a deep route over the middle and will end up crossing the field in one-on-one coverage. We as Gators fans watched this route (and all the others) run to perfection in the 1990s, so explaining them isn't really needed.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Shaw is the beneficiary of some great blocking by the offensive line as well. This is going to be an area that the Gators are going to have to excel at tomorrow if they want to slow down the Gamecock passing offense. Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, Dominique Easley, Leon Orr and company, I'm looking at you.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

I wish the angle was different but I'm sure y'all remember the Georgia game last year in which the Gators lost out on two plays last year in this same situation. Hopefully the 50-50 balls in which both the defender and receiver are fighting for it are won in this game. Byrd does a nice job of ripping the ball out of the defenders hand to complete the catch.

Play No. 2: Shaw's 20-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Ellington is going to run the same route that Byrd ran above, only shorter.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The key to this play being successful is getting the linebackers and safeties to bite on the play-fake to Lattimore. Obviously, if Lattimore is out, the play-fake might not be all that effective. Sure, it will work occasionally, but not nearly as much as it would with South Carolina's best threat at tailback in the game.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

All day long. I don't care if you're the worst quarterback Spurrier has ever had on his roster, you're going to be able to make this throw. Shaw does so for the touchdown.

Play No. 3: Shaw's 14-yard touchdown pass to Rory Anderson


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Passing to the tight end, yay! (Sarcasm.)


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Anderson is running the underneath crossing route while the three other receivers are either heading to the other side of the field or running a deep route to the end zone. The Georgia linebackers are unsure of what to do at this point.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Here, the linebacker is still unsure of what to do. By now, it is clear that it is a passing play, I'm sure that he's got an eye on Lattimore in the backfield just in case, but he should be more focused on the receiver. That way, at worst, he'll give up a short pass play instead of a touchdown.


(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Burnt worse than a cigarette being thrown into an incinerator. Jelani Jenkins is supposed to be back, so hopefully this play (or a similar play) doesn't work against the Gators tomorrow. Then again, it would probably be Jonathan Bostic on South Carolina's tight end, and Bostic isn't fast enough to cover him ... so, yeah, ugh.

Obviously the strength of the Gamecocks is running the football with Lattimore and playing some pretty solid defense, but those aspects are to be expected in the SEC. And normally, we'd have previewed one of the two, but that gets rather boring week in and week out. Also, the Gators see it nearly every week unless they are playing the Tennessee Volunteers or the Kentucky Wildcats, so it's kind of like:

"Yeah, we already know damn it!"

Just watch out for Shaw running with the football. He's not like a Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) or a Jordan Rodgers (Vanderbilt), but he is effective when he does it.