The unwritten rule in the SEC is that running quarterbacks don’t usually make it through an entire season.
The hits pile up, and so do the odds against them that they’re going to be able to absorb the additional pounding for 12 or 13 games.
Protecting a quarterback who does most of his damage from the pocket is difficult enough in this league. But when that quarterback is also running the ball 10 or more times a game, there’s usually a quota on how many hits he can take and still be effective.
And in some cases, staying in one piece is a challenge.
Running the football is a big part of who they are as quarterbacks. Shaw was hurt in his first SEC game against Vanderbilt. So was Franklin in his first SEC game against Georgia.
When South Carolina and Missouri square off on Saturday in Columbia, S.C., Shaw will be back in the starting lineup for the Gamecocks. He has a hairline fracture in his right (throwing) shoulder, but insists he can withstand the pain.
Shaw didn’t finish last week’s game against UAB after aggravating the injury. He was held out of the game two weeks ago against East Carolina.
As for Franklin, he’s optimistic that he will be able to return this week against the Gamecocks after not playing against Arizona State last week. Franklin has an inflamed bursa sac in his right (throwing) shoulder. He doesn’t believe in taking painkiller injections, which became a bit of an issue last week when Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said publicly that Franklin refused to take a shot before the game.
In retrospect, Pinkel said nobody should question Franklin’s toughness, especially given all the injuries he played through last season.
Pinkel emphasized earlier this week that Franklin, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, will play if he can on Saturday.
Both South Carolina and Missouri have seen their backup quarterbacks come in and have success this season.
Dylan Thompson, who’s more of a pocket passer, threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns while filling in for Shaw against East Carolina the second week of the season.
And last week in Missouri’s 24-20 win over Arizona State, Corbin Berkstresser passed for 198 yards and also had 18 rushing attempts for 25 yards.
Pinkel admitted the Tigers were more conservative with Berkstresser at quarterback.
“Really, at the end of the game, we didn't want to make a mistake," Pinkel said. "Our defense was playing pretty good. At the end, I didn't want to put it in [Berkstresser's] hands to win it. I wanted to give it to the defense. Fortunately, our defense made some plays to get that done."
Franklin had 217 rushing attempts last season and just missed 1,000 rushing yards. Given that he's already banged up, it's hard to imagine that he'll get 200-plus carries this season in the SEC.
"James' problems in getting hit and getting beat up have not been as much running the football. It's more getting hit throwing the football," Pinkel said. "That's been his problem, not running. That being said, when you run with the football, there's a responsibility that you have. Last year, he kind of took linebackers and safeties on. He's a tough kid. He's very competitive. This year, the talking points to him were that he did our team a disservice when he did that. Certainly, it's impressive to your teammates that you're competitive and tough like that. But the next stage in his career of running the football is that there's a time to go down and a time to take people on. When it's fourth-and-1 or third-and-1, that's fine. You can do that. We understand that.
"He didn't play last week. But the first two games, I thought he did a pretty good job of doing that. But you've got to be careful, no question about it. The physicalness of this league is significant, and you've got to be smart about what you do."
The doctors have said Shaw won't do any further damage to his shoulder by playing and that it gets down to his pain tolerance. Shaw had 14 carries in the opener, but carried it only five times last week against UAB.
Spurrier said knowing Thompson can go in and be effective is a luxury and doesn't create any controversy with the team.
"There's no sports writer, I don’t think, in the country who had Dylan Thompson coming in and maybe beating [Shaw] out or anything like that," Spurrier said. "Of course, Dylan has a few touchdown passes and plays well, and that starts the writers scrambling around and trying to create some crap. We understand all of that. That's part of the game as coaches, to understand that.
"But Connor's our quarterback, and Dylan's ready to play."