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Who Will be South Carolina’s Offensive MVP?

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For South Carolina to win, Connor Shaw will need to emerge as the Gamecocks' MVP. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
For South Carolina to win, Connor Shaw will need to emerge as the Gamecocks' MVP. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.

The honor of being South Carolina’s defensive MVP for the upcoming season is Jadeveon Clowney’s to lose. The race for the Gamecocks’ offensive MVP, however, is wide open.

The three most likely candidates for offensive MVP are Bruce Ellington, Mike Davis and Connor Shaw.

Ellington is nothing if not explosive. He’s an amazing athlete who is a threat to catch passes downfield, run out of the backfield and return kicks. His versatility keeps defenses guessing and fits perfectly with Steve Spurrier’s creative offense.

The knock on Ellington is that his route-running leaves a little to be desired and his lack of size allows him to be a shifty ball carrier, but makes him a smaller target on deep routes. Of course, Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers isn’t tall and uses his leaping ability to make up for that. Ellington too could develop beyond his short stature.

Even still, Ellington will have to be much improved from last year if he’s to emerge as the team’s best receiver, let alone the offensive MVP. In 2012, he had 40 catches for 600 yards. While that lead the team in yardage, Ace Sanders had more receptions and nine receiving touchdowns to Ellington’s seven.

In 2013, Ellington will need to find the end zone more often and push toward 1,000 receiving yards if he’s going to emerge as the Gamecocks’ offensive MVP.

Davis certainly has big play ability like Ellington, but Davis’ biggest strength is his reliability. Davis is a workhorse at running back. He can plow between the tackles to great effect. When he bounces outside, he has enough speed to break into the defensive secondary. This will make him a huge part of the South Carolina offense.

Last season, while filling in for Marcus Lattimore, on Davis averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 52 rushes. Given the workload that Davis is likely to take on this season, he’s a strong contender for the offensive MVP.

However, his ability to contribute to the offense is limited to the ground game. Shaw has the potential to attack opponents on the ground and in the air.

It’s a bit of a cliché to make the quarterback the offensive MVP, but Shaw truly will be the key component to the Gamecocks’ 2013 fortunes. Since Davis is a threat, teams will be inclined to put eight defenders in the box to stop the run. Opponents will force South Carolina to beat them through the air.

Shaw has the potential to be a good passer. Last year he completed 67.5 percent of his passes and only gave up seven interceptions. His receiving corps is solid if not spectacular and they make up for relative inexperience with tons of speed. If Shaw can get the ball to his speedy wideouts in 1-on-1 coverage, then the Gamecocks will be extremely tough to stop.

Adding a downfield passing option would spread defenses and allow more space for Davis to run through. Of course Shaw can also run. In 2012, only Lattimore rushed for more yards than Shaw. As a dual-threat quarterback, Shaw can put defenses in a difficult situation. If he’s connecting on passes consistently, then defenses will drop back in coverage. At that point, Shaw would be free to simply step up in the pocket and take off for a run.

Shaw has the ability to positively affect South Carolina’s offense to such a degree that his personal success will determine the success of the team as a whole. For that reason, he’s the most likely candidate to end up as the Gamecocks’ offensive MVP.