That provided more opportunities for his classmate Kelsey Young, who has played some receiver and returned kicks the past two years. Young uses speed and quickness to do a little bit of everything. Redshirt senior Ricky Seale may be even quicker than he is.
Then there's junior Barry Sanders, son and namesake of a Pro Football Hall of Fame tailback. Sanders "has a once-a-day 'Wow!' play," Shaw said. But that hasn't been enough to get the 5-10, 192-pound Sanders onto the field with any regularity. His blocking, an integral part of a tailback's job at Stanford, has lagged. But Shaw said Sanders is ready, and so are the other three.
What about the old rule, modified here, that if you have four running backs, you really don't have any?
"I understand where that phrase comes from," Shaw said, "but we're in a different world now. We're in a world of specialists, guys that play roles on good teams."
It's a world without Gaffney or Taylor, and Shaw isn't concerned at all.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Everywhere you look on the Texas A&M campus, you see signs of the Aggies' unexpected success in their first two seasons in the SEC. There's an expanding stadium, new football facility and bigger weight room.
It seems the Aggies are spending their SEC riches as soon as they earn it.
"It's crazy," Aggies offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "I bet some of the guys who left and came back here wouldn't even recognize it. Every time you turn on ESPN, you hear about A&M in some fashion. Before I came here, I'd never even heard of A&M."
But after quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, bolted for the NFL draft after his sophomore season, the Aggies are now out to prove they're more than a one-man show. Heading into their third season in the SEC, they're facing the same big question of their inaugural campaign in the sport's most rugged league: Who's going to play quarterback?
Either sophomore Kenny Hill or touted freshman Kyle Allen will be under center in the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina. A three-man competition was reduced to two after senior Matt Joeckel transferred to TCU last month.
Hill, the son of former major league pitcher Ken Hill, completed 16 of 22 passes in four games as a freshman in 2013. He missed much of spring practice after he was indefinitely suspended in late March following his arrest on public intoxication. Allen, from Scottsdale, Arizona, enrolled in classes at Texas A&M in January after graduating early from high school.
"I think one of those guys is going to surprise the nation next year -- the same way Johnny did," Ogbuehi said.
And as far as Manziel's replacement, nobody really knew who Johnny Football was until he took the field.