Steve Spurrier sat and coolly glared for a few seconds that felt like an eternity before carefully giving his response.
Asked by a TV reporter on Tuesday during SEC Media Days whether junior quarterback Connor Shaw had ever tested his patience, Spurrier cleverly articulated in his unique way how things are different nowadays for South Carolina at the most important position in football.
"Patience? I don't have patience?" Spurrier said during his rounds at SEC Media Days. "Do you know what I've been through for about the last four years? No, Connor hasn't tested it."
The no-nonsense Shaw emerged as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the SEC over the second half last season, rushing for 525 yards and completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns.
With Stephen Garcia now fully removed from the picture, Spurrier expects Shaw will settle comfortably into his role as starting quarterback for a consensus Top 15 team in the nation.
"When Stephen Garcia left the team, maybe it cleared the air a little bit for Connor," Spurrier said. "Sometimes when the quarterback knows he's the guy, he plays a little bit better. Maybe that helped Connor. He played very well in the final four games."
USC closed out last season with four straight wins for the first time since 1958.
In the last three games against The Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska, Shaw threw eight TD passes and just one interception while carrying the ball 49 times for 239 yards, an impressive display of quarterbacking.
"Connor represents our university and football program in a very high-class manner," Spurrier said. "He goes to all the workouts. He's a quiet leader on the team. Everybody has ultimate respect for Connor with just the way he handles himself and the way he plays the position. His leadership skills are very good."
Together with first-team pre-season All-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore and the talented group of ball carriers behind him on the depth chart, USC should again benefit from a stout running game with Shaw at the helm.
"Connor is a little different," Spurrier said. "The style of our whole offense is different than in years past. Connor is a running and passing quarterback. He's both. I've never quite had one that maybe is a little bit better runner than he is a passer. Hopefully, he will be a little bit better passer this year. But he's still going to keep running the ball because that's what he does very well."
Many college football analysts have watched incredulously as Spurrier has overseen a USC offense that often looks 180 degrees differently than the high-flying aerial attacks Florida was beloved - or hated depending on your perspective - for in the 1990s.
USC ran the ball 553 times and passed it 317 times during the 2011 season. Shaw attempted 188 passes in 10 games, an average of 18.8 per game. He also had 135 rushing attempts.
"We were pretty much a 40- or 45-run, 20-pass type team last year," Spurrier said. "We may be that way this year. If we can't throw it very well, we're not going to try to. Whatever we need to do to try to win the games is what we have to do."
Because the Gamecocks are usually better served keeping the ball on the ground for long stretches (the 20-play, 98-yard drive at Tennessee last season is the best example), Spurrier has altered the way he attacks opposing defenses.
"When I coached at Florida, we would come out firing and usually get ahead and then run the ball," Spurrier said. "Now we may run the ball to start out the game. We haven't been as good of a passing team as we were back in those days. But we have good runners. That's sort of what we do best. But we still hope to throw the ball a little more successfully then we have in the past."
USC finished fourth in the SEC in total offense (373.5 yards per game) in 2011, while generating 51.4 percent of their total yardage on the ground (2,497 rushing yards; 4,856 total yards).
The fourth-place ranking in total offense was the highest for USC in that category since Spurrier took over as head coach prior to the 2005 season.
Now he has set his sights even higher.
"Hopefully, we'll be even better offensively," Spurrier said. "Connor has played only half a year as the starter. Through all the practice and making decisions back there, I think he's going to get better. He certainly should get better."
After missing the final six games last season with a serious knee injury, Lattimore should be 100 percent healthy when pre-season camp starts Aug. 3, Spurrier said.
Prior to Shaw taking over as the starter midway through last season, Spurrier insisted USC suffered from inconsistent play at the quarterback position. Former starters Blake Mitchell, Chris Smelley and Garcia occasionally enjoyed solid performances, but typically couldn't sustain it from week-to-week. Often, a good outing was followed by a poor one.
Will consistency remain elusive with Shaw calling signals? Spurrier is hopeful his running ability could boost the offense and keep the chains moving.
"When a play breaks down, he can run for the first down," Spurrier said. "That is so important. You can't call every play perfectly. Sometimes the defense has a good call for what you're trying to do. When the quarterback comes running out of there and makes the first down, you get to start all over again. The importance of that is tremendous."
Higher expectations - some analysts are predicting USC will match or exceed its win total from a year ago - will greet the Gamecock players when they step onto the Proving Ground for the first workout of pre-season camp on Aug. 3.
For his part, Spurrier doesn't deny the pieces could be in place for another double-digit win season by the Gamecocks.
"We're getting better, which is probably why I'm still coaching," Spurrier said. "We've really improved the overall attitude and commitment and how our players approach the game. We've reached a lot of firsts like winning the East and winning 11 games, the most in school history. But we still haven't won the SEC. So there are still a bunch of firsts out there that we can shoot for. Maybe we'll have a team that's ready this year, maybe not. That's why you play the game."
For in-depth coverage of Gamecock sports and recruiting, visit GamecockCentral.com.