Because we don’t really want to talk about the stuff that’s going on on the field, we devolve into coaching searches, Tom Herman’s wife, and our undefeated basketball team and how far they can go.
Or click here or the graphic to stream, and enjoy!
Because we don’t really want to talk about the stuff that’s going on on the field, we devolve into coaching searches, Tom Herman’s wife, and our undefeated basketball team and how far they can go.
Or click here or the graphic to stream, and enjoy!
This football season? It’s the worst. The absolute worst.
When I say that, I know what’s coming. I know what some of you are thinking – “Yeah, but…”
You’re going to remind me of 1998-1999, aren’t you? You’re going to remind me of 1-21.
“The WORST, man. It’s never going to get worse than that. How can it, we won ONE game in TWO years!”
I hear ya. And I respect your opinion. But I’m telling you the 3-9 we’re going to finish with this season is worse. By a fairly wide margin.
At the beginning of the 1998 season we had one bowl victory in our history against eight losses. The bowl victory was in the gloriously-named Carquest Bowl, and lifted us to a 7-5 final record. The greatest season in school history was a strange blip in 1984, and we still managed to lose to Navy and blow our bowl game against Oklahoma State. Gaining bowl eligibility was a stretch goal for us most years.
There were brief moments of hope early in the Brad Scott era, but in retrospect something along the lines of 1-10 shouldn’t have been hard to see coming. Scott used talent recruited by Sparky Woods (never thought you’d ever read that did you) and parlayed it into the bowl win and a couple of very average seasons. But at the end of 1997 the signs were there – we were in trouble.
The year 1998 was hard, but we were an SEC program that was a half-step better than Vanderbilt and that was about it. Was it so unreasonable for us to believe we could go 1-10? The next year brought Lou Holtz and lot of excitement and anticipation, but by mid-season we knew a winless slate was possible. After all, Holtz was left with the burned out shell of a ’72 Nova by Scott.
Another factor that can’t be overlooked is there was no social media in 98-99. The failures of the Gamecocks weren’t necessarily in your face every day like they are today.
My personal recollection of those two years is numbness. There were no expectations, so there was no real disappointment. It was embarrassing for sure, but not shocking.
Fast-forward to the first game of 2014. We were coming off our third consecutive 11-2 season and a program-best 4th-place finish in the polls. And the year before that run we had won our first and only SEC East title. We had turned the corner. We were a top team in the best conference in college football, with fantastic resources, a hall of fame coach and very good recruiting classes lining up. There was no going back to the program we once were.
Or so we thought.
The Texas A&M game was merely a precursor to what has been a spectacular fall from the top of the SEC. We were competitive last year, but blew fourth-quarter leads and limped to a 7-6 finish.
Steve Spurrier seemed to be rejuvenated heading into this season. He had a new defensive coordinator and a spring back in his step. He assured everyone this team was going to be different and we were going to bounce back.
The second week of the season we lost to Kentucky and the spring was gone. That’s when I first knew it was over for Spurrier. Then we got drilled by Georgia, and the rest of the fan base started to catch up. He wasn’t turning this thing around.
Spurrier then resigned, or quit, or whatever you want to call it. You can be mad about the way he left us, but I’m more mad about what he did to us before he left us. He didn’t think he had to work hard any more, especially on the recruiting trail, and it killed us. We noticed the lack of talent early last year, and then he made the infamous “two year” comment and recruits ran from us.
Shawn Elliott has tried, but we’ve still suffered through difficult losses in games where a play or two could’ve made a difference. Each loss was more painful than the last, until yesterday. Losing to the Citadel is unacceptable even under the worst of circumstances.
To cap if off, in 1998-99 we had to deal with decent Clemson teams, but they were not national contenders like they are today. Going through a miserable season like we are right now while watching our hated rivals have their best season in 35 years is the ultimate salt in the wound.
To think about where we were less than two years ago and to see where we are today is the biggest gut punch in Gamecock sports history. You can invoke 1998-99, but to me it isn’t close. This is much, much worse.
Words are not sufficient, so I won’t write any.
Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 24-14 loss to Florida:
We’re Number 14! Back in the spring, the day before the Garnet and Black game, we had the privilege of being on Sportstalk with Phil Kornblut, Kevin McCrarey and Tom Hayes. We had long discussions about the spring game and the upcoming season. Part of the conversation centered around the record Gamecock fans would “sign up for” prior to the 2015 season. I was comfortable with 8-4, even 7-5 with a win over Clemson. I think I even laughed and said I might sign up for 6-6 with a win over Clemson.
Not long after, a local Atlanta radio host came out with his way-too-early SEC bowl projections. He projected South Carolina to the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City and asked on air if we would be all right with that. I don’t remember who the opponent was, because I immediately dismissed it as poppycock. “No thanks,” I tweeted to the radio host, “we’ll take our chances”.
What an idiot I was.
After yesterday’s oh-so-predictable 24-14 loss to SEC East champion Florida, we are guaranteed record-wise to be the worst team in the SEC. (Missouri will likely lose their last two and finish 1-7 in conference as well, but since they beat us they get the tiebreaker. Congrats Tigers!) Oh sure, you can argue we’re not the worst team in the SEC, since we would probably beat Kentucky and Missouri if we had another shot at them. Add that to the Vandy victory and we would finish a semi-respectable 3-5 in conference.
But why would you waste your breath? Does in really matter when you finish anywhere from 10-14 in the SEC? Nobody has ever lifted a 12th-place trophy with any amount of pride. We might as well get a participation trophy, it would be just as worthless.
Just about 22 months ago we were celebrating a number four finish in the polls, the best in school history. We were 33-6 over three seasons. We were a program on the rise. Here to stay. Top 10 program. #HereSC.
Now it’s all gone. The standings have been flipped, and we’re at the bottom of the pile. USC fans haven’t really cared much about the last three games since Steve Spurrier resigned, and I don’t get the sense many people care much about the next two. We just want to know who is going to come in here, sweep up the ashes, and start a new fire.
Offensive. South Carolina had zero points and a grand total of 44 yards on 30 plays through three quarters against Florida. Somehow Perry Orth and company figured out who to move the ball against a stout Gator defense, but by then it was little too late. A lot of people were throwing G.A. Magnus, Orth, and the rest of the offense under the bus for most of the game without acknowledging that Florida has NFL talent across the field on defense. Sure, the totals were nothing short of embarrassing for most of the game, but give credit where credit is due. This was a simple case of men against boys.
All or nORTHing. Orth was simply getting buried for most of the game. At times he held onto the ball too long, and he was a step too slow against this Gator D to make anything happen with his legs. But most of the day he didn’t have time to look beyond his first read.
I know it was frustrating, and it’s easy from our couches to call for him to be benched. But seriously, do you think Lorenzo Nuñez or Connor Mitch would’ve done any better? Nuñez had one good game against possibly the worst team in the country, and completely crapped the bed against an elite defense in Missouri. Florida would’ve eaten him alive. Meanwhile, Mitch hasn’t seen live action in two months, and the time he did play he didn’t exactly invoke memories of Steve Taneyhill.
As we said in this space last week, barring injury Orth will get all the meaningful snaps for the rest of the season. Even if they’re meaningless.
Ride the Hurst. Gman said on last week’s podcast to look out for Hayden Hurst, he thought the kid had a good future for us. It looks like the future is now. Based on his number of targets yesterday, Hurst appears to be our number two wide receiver.
Oven mitts. Our defense was good at times yesterday, but couldn’t come up with the big play when the opportunity presented itself. One such opportunity was missed by Chris Lammons, his fourth missed opportunity in two weeks, when he whiffed on an interception of Treon Harris that resulted in a Florida touchdown. I think Lammons will be our best cover corner next year, but Lord have mercy I hope he learns to catch a football over the summer.
Machine gun. Sean Kelly averaged 46.7 yards on punts, including a long of 69 against the Gators. I don’t keep up with SEC punters, but I have to think he’s in line for some all-SEC honors. (But please stop saying Kelly is the Gamecocks’ MVP, even if you’re being facetious. It’s an insult to say a guy who plays about six plays a game is our MVP over a guy like Pharoh Cooper.)
New lids. I didn’t love the new helmets. I didn’t hate them. I do think it would’ve been better if more of the Gamecock had been featured on the decal. Seemed kinda weird to just have the rooster’s ass.
Coachwatch ’15. In the showdown we’ve all been waiting for, Tom Herman and Houston defeated Justin Fuente’s Memphis club 35-34 in a really fun ball game. Two schools are going to get really good coaches in these two guys. I just hope we’re one of them. But if not, there’s always Kirby Smart, whose Alabama defense is currently reaching into other teams’ chests and pulling out their hearts and showing it to them.
Regarding Herman, the talk of him coming to South Carolina heated up significantly this week. That’s exciting to hear, but it’s also the type of thing we heard about Will Muschamp becoming our defensive coordinator after last season. Right now rumors are just that – rumors. And unless we hire someone who is not currently coaching, which seems highly unlikely, we will not officially know who our next head coach is until December 6 at the earliest.
Now I’m going to go try to sleep until then. Wake me up when it’s over.
Buck, Tbone and the Gman discuss the Tennessee game, coaching changes, and the possible differences between Stockholm and Helsinki Syndromes (?). The also take your Twitter questions and twist them into unrecognizable answers. As always, it’s a really good time.
Or click here or the click the graphic to stream:
Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed (and very late) thoughts from South Carolina’s 27-24 loss to Tennessee:
Due credit. We, along with many other Gamecock fans, have been highly critical of Lorenzo Ward and/or Jon Hoke since the beginning of the 2014 season for obvious reasons. While the offense has not been totally blameless over the last two years, it is easy to point to numerous games where the Gamecock defense has given up an unacceptable number of yards and points, or has failed to come up with a defensive stop with a close game on the line. The blame? Poor tackling, bad alignment, awful positioning and good old-fashioned getting whipped by the guy across from you were all candidates at various times. But in the end it all came down to the guys in charge – Ward and Hoke.
So when Tennessee ran 14 plays for 142 yards (10 yards per play) and two touchdowns on their first two possessions on Saturday, it felt like the same old same old for present-day Gamecock football. USC was on the verge of being humiliated by the surging Volunteers. But South Carolina held the high-powered Tennessee offense to only 266 yards on 61 plays (4.4 yards per play) for the rest of the game, including one touchdown and two field goals. Considering the way the game started, and the way the defense has performed over the last 22 games, that was quite a turnaround.
The credit for the momentary prowess on defense? Quite simply, we corrected many of the bad things we’ve been doing since the start of 2014. For the first time in over a year and a half we looked like an SEC defense. And if we’re going to blame Ward and Hoke for our failures, then I believe we need to tip our cap to those guys for the way we played on Saturday.
With offensively challenged Florida and FCS program The Citadel on the horizon hopefully we’ll be able to keep this trend going. But the true test will come in three weeks against #1-ranked Clemson. If we can slow those guys down enough to stay in the game for four quarters, then ‘ll personally come to Columbia and buy Lorenzo Ward and Jon Hoke the beverage of their choice.
Orth and goal. A lot of people were calling for Perry Orth to take a seat on the bench very early in the Tennessee game. Let me tell you why he didn’t get benched, and why, barring injury, he will take the vast majority of snaps over the next three weeks.
One – the kid has intangibles that have endeared him to his teammates. Call it guts, call it moxie, or think of your own Orthian cliché. All the other players know his story. They know he lacks the raw talent of Connor Mitch and Lorenzo Nunez. But he’s been able to go out and lead this offense down the field by any means necessary. It hasn’t always been pretty, or even effective. But given the situation into which he has been thrust I personally feel like he’s done an admirable job.
Two – There is currently no one on the team who can run the offense better than Orth. Mitch hasn’t played a live snap in eight weeks, and Nunez is still a baby deer running around out there not quite sure what to do. Perry Orth gives us our best chance to win, which is why we’ll ride or die with him in November.
Adams Family. Hang in there Jerell, you’ll get a chance to redeem yourself.
J-Train. I didn’t know Jonathan Walton played running back in high school. But after seeing how good he looked on his touchdown catch and run against Tennessee, I’d like to see him play it in college. Granted, it was the only play he touched the ball, so I know I should temper my enthusiasm and not overreact. But with Brandon Wilds graduating, I’d love to see 28 get some carries to see what he can do. If he runs the ball the way he tackles people, he could be a nice, bruising addition to the backfield in 2016.
Affirmations. So yeah, a lot of positivity coming out of Snap Judgments after a loss, I know. But as I stated last week, what good is being a Debbie Downer going to help at this point. We are what we are, and I’m personally looking for some nuggets to give me a shred of hope for the future. The good news is I’m finding a few. I even said to some folks last week (prior to the Tennessee game) that I thought Florida was a good matchup for us and we would give them all they could handle. Of course, I also said Tennessee would beat us by three touchdowns, so what do I know.
Coachwatch ’15. Top-ranked Tom Herman defeated Cincinnati 33-30. Number two ranked Kirby Smart dominated LSU 30-16. Third-ranked Justin Fuente suffered his first loss of the season against Navy 45-20.
The good news from the weekend is Georgia righted the ship against Kentucky, so maybe they’ll hang on to Mark Richt and we’ll have one less open job to compete with. The other good news is that the three guys on our list are not necessarily being looked at as closely by other schools with open HC jobs. Virginia Tech is reportedly zeroing in on Rich Rodriguez, while Mario Cristobal has emerged as the top candidate at Miami. Southern Cal seems likely to hire a west coast guy (maybe Utah’s Kyle Whittingham) or someone who has “family ties” to the Trojans. I believe we have the clear advantage over all the other schools looking for a head man.
Have a good week and Go Cocks!
On moral victories. In 2006 South Carolina lost a close game to second-ranked Auburn 24-17. Afterwards the fans gave the players a hearty cheer for a great effort against a highly-ranked opponent. Steve Spurrier then went on to chastise the fans for applauding their team after a loss – “Please don’t clap when you lose a game. There’s no moral victories in any sport.”
The object of football is to win, right? We didn’t win, so why cheer?
I totally agree, but those comments were made in a different time for South Carolina football. We had a legendary coach in his second year at a perennial loser trying to change the culture of the program and the teach the fans a lesson about winning. We had young, wide-eyed guys buying into what Spurrier was building and learning to accept nothing short of victory.
Nine years later we took a team into College Station, TX under completely different circumstances. The same coach who taught us about nothing less than winning left us mid-season. Players are getting instruction from coaches they more than likely won’t be playing for next season, in offensive and defensive systems that will probably be completely different in a few months.
We were tied with Texas A&M, a team loaded with four and five-star talent, 21-21 at the half, and had the ball with a chance to tie the game late. Yes, we did lose. And yes, just like in 2006, there are no moral victories.
However, given the mess that’s been handed to them, through no fault of their own, I applaud these kids and their coaches for the effort. I’ve seen better teams quit for much less. The players and coaches deserve some credit for going out and competing like they did yesterday.
Shawn of the Dead. While Shawn Elliott deserves credit for his motivational tactics, his in-game management isn’t helping his quest to become the full-time head coach. David Cloninger of The State mentioned it as a “Thumbs Down” in his write-up this morning:
Decisions – Not being aggressive every time USC touched the ball, knowing it had no defense, took chances from the Gamecocks that really could have come in handy. Wasting a final second-quarter possession with 60 seconds and timeouts, punting on fourth-and-5 in the fourth at midfield while down a score.
This team is going nowhere. They will be underdogs in all but one of their remaining games. You’re playing toe-to-toe with a team that’s a 16-point favorite, why not take some chances? What do you have to lose? This is the one area I have missed Spurrier the most.
Defense-less. I’ve railed on our talent for the better part of two years, especially on defense. But the defensive performance yesterday was on the defensive coaching staff. Kyle Murray of TAMU ran for 156 of their 544 yards, and on most carries he ran the first 10 without ever being touched. The Aggies would line up in an empty backfield, and the draw was coming every time, but somehow we didn’t defend it. On the read option, there was rarely a defender checking Murray.
That my friends, is either poor scheme, or poor discipline. Regardless, those are coaching issues.
Running Wilds. Brandon Wilds is obviously out of whatever doghouse he was in for whatever reason he was in there, and ran with a vengeance yesterday. He picked up 128 yards on 17 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Orth and South. Perry Orth ran for a surprising 64 yards yesterday, and made some nice throws that helped keep us in the game. But he also threw a critical pick six, and ended the game with another interception. The truth is, we’re getting exactly what we should expect out of the former walk-on – a few unexpected highs and some mind-numbing lows.
Coachwatch ’15. Tom Herman thrashed Vanderbilt 34-0. Justin Fuente struggled early but managed to beat Tulane 41-13. Kirby Smart DNP.
In other news, the rumblings of Mark Richt’s tenure at Georgia coming to an end were already growing. Their 27-3 loss to Florida yesterday means the Bulldog fanbase will be gathering their torches and pitchforks for the call-in shows this week. It certainly will not help our coaching search if we’re competing with Georgia.
We’re really tired of all the opinions floating around about who should replace Steve Spurrier as head football coach at South Carolina. Mostly tired of the opinions because none of them are ours. But we’re now here to correct that, with volume one of our TRC New Coach Power Rankings 1-100, which (sort of) looks at the top 100 candidates for the job. As always, we have no inside information, we’re just extremely intelligent and pretty much always know what is best for Gamecock sports teams. Why people from the administration don’t consult us more is beyond us.
As you’ve read in other places, it seems like the search is currently centered on three guys – Fuente, Herman and Smart. We’re throwing in a few other names that have been mentioned just for funsies, but honestly will be a little disappointed if one of the top three listed here don’t get the job.
We’ve also included current salaries just to show that money is not really going to be much of an issue unless we get into a bidding war with another school (Maryland, Virginia Tech maybe). My wild guess is that we’re going to pay the next guy somewhere between $3mm and $3.5mm. As of today we have the second most attractive job available, and Southern Cal isn’t going to be after any of our top three here.
1a. Justin Fuente
Current Position: Head Coach, Memphis
Current Salary: $1.4 mm
Why we want him: Memphis football has been a flaming barge of horse dung for as long as any of us can remember. There is some great high school football in the area, but the city is known for the crime, barbecue, crime, the blues, crime, and most of all, crime. Baltimore thinks Memphis has too much crime. So the good football players go elsewhere and Memphis gets the leftovers.
Justin Fuente struggled to field competitive teams his first two years going 4-8 and 3-9, but has gone 16-3 since, including a perfect record so far this season. What he has built from the ground up and the results on the field are nothing short of stunning. He is quite simply the hottest name in coaching today after their upset of Ole Miss last Saturday. He has a pedigree, having played for some powerful Oklahoma teams as a collegian and directing a potent TCU offense before taking over at Memphis.
Why we don’t: I can’t think of anything substantial at this point. But, if I had to name something, I personally haven’t heard much about his recruiting ability aside from the fact that he’s a tireless worker and is creative. Also, he hasn’t faced the pressure of being the head man at a school in the SEC, or a school that values its football program as much as South Carolina. But that can be said about pretty much any candidate coming from a “Group of 5” school.
1b. Tom Herman
Current Position: Head Coach, Houston
Current Salary: $1.35 mm base, but incentives could get him north of $2.7 mm
Why we want him: While Fuente’s pedigree is good, Herman’s is great. He came to Houston directly from Ohio State where he was the offensive coordinator for Urban Meyer. (Meyer’s coaching tree is getting pretty impressive.) In his first year with the Cougars he has his team undefeated and , like Fuente, squarely in the mix for the American Conference championship and possibly a major bowl. All you need to know why Herman should be a top consideration can be found here. He sounds like exactly the kind of guy the Gamecocks need. Also, good recruiter.
Why we don’t: While his head coaching stint so far is impressive, it is a very small sample. However, if he was still the OC at Ohio State, he would probably still be getting mentioned. Also, Houston has made quite the commitment to Herman, with his base salary and bonuses that will probably get him more than $2.5 million. That number won’t scare the Gamecocks away, it just means we might have to pay him a little more than some other guys on this list.
3. Kirby Smart
Current Position: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama
Current Salary: $1.28 mm (second highest paid assistant in the country)
Why we want him: Smart is a long time disciple of a guy named Nick Saban, who has had decent success at Alabama. Smart also has an embarrassingly large ring collection for a dude. But seriously, Smart has been with Saban for a long time, and knows what it takes to build and maintain a championship program. The question is, does he know how to do it without Saban by his side. Word on the street is he is a big reason for Alabama’s recruiting success, and has those SEC and South Carolina ties that will get him into any living room he wants. Did I mention the man can coach some defense?
Why we don’t: Smart has long been mentioned as a candidate to replace Steve Spurrier, the question is why hasn’t he gotten another job before now? Does he interview poorly? Is he just being selective because he can? Can’t say, because I don’t know if we’ve ever heard him talk. Also, most schools these days are looking for head coaches with an offensive background, and while it hasn’t been said publicly, I wouldn’t be surprised if USC falls into that category. Smart would need to assure Ray Tanner that he would bring in an innovative offensive mind.
4. Rich Rodriguez
Current Position: Head Coach, Arizona
Current Salary: $1.5 mm (surprisingly low?)
Why we want him: At one time this guy was Fuente, Smart and Herman – the guy being sought after by a lot of Power 5 schools. Rodriguez made his name at Clemson, and parlayed that into a head coaching job in his home state at West Virginia. Success there led to a disastrous stint at Michigan, but he has recovered nicely at Arizona, a school without much of a football history. He might be very interested in getting back to the southeast, and pick up a hefty raise while doing so.
Why we don’t: Rodriguez kinda screwed West Virginia in the way he left them for Michigan. His time with the Wolverines was messy. Not unfamiliar with the long arm of the NCAA. Is he a good enough candidate/coach that we would be willing to accept his baggage?
5. Shawn Elliott
Current Position: Interim Head Coach, South Carolina
Current Salary: $430,000
Why we want him: Elliott is a great story, being a hometown boy who is living his dream at the moment. He has boundless energy, the players love him, the fans love him, what’s not to like?
Why we don’t: Problem is, being a great story doesn’t win football games. Elliott should get a fair shake over the next several weeks, but in the end we have the opportunity to hire a red-hot coaching candidate line Fuente, Herman or Smart. We (and by we, I mean Ray Tanner) cannot let emotions get in the way, no matter how much we love Coach Elliott.
Let’s put it in a way that is cold and will make you mad at me – if Elliott doesn’t get the job and is not retained by the guy who does get it, where does he go next? He probably winds up as a position coach, maybe a coordinator, maybe at at Power 5 school, but maybe lower. Schools simply aren’t lining up to hire Shawn Elliott as the head man of their football program. We can’t afford to settle.
6-43. Not listed
44. Rich Bissacia
Current Position: Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
Current Salary: Don’t know.
Why we want him: We don’t. But if we did I guess it would be because guys who played for him and guys he has coached with speak very highly of him.
Why we don’t: Where do we start.
45-99. Not listed
100. Mack Brown
Current Position: TV Analyst
Current Salary: More then he deserves
Why we want him: Everybody else dies.
Why we don’t: Our top 99 candidates are probably not going to die.
Some quick, barely researched, not fully-formed thoughts from South Carolina’s 19-10 victory over Vanderbilt:
Purgatory. I guess yesterday felt about the way it should have felt. And by that I mean really strange. There’s this part of me that really wants this season over so we can move on to the next stage of the life of South Carolina Gamecock football. And there’s part of me that will never NOT be excited when a game is about to kick off. So I watched the 2/3 full stadium, my team with an interim head coach, with a backup QB, with a 2-4 record, against the perennial doormat of the SEC, in what felt like a super-important game even though in reality it wasn’t anything close to that.
It was easy to settle in to that normal 2015 Gamecock football feeling once the game started though. I bitched and moaned about the play calling. Same for the referees. And I pumped my fist when Pharoh Cooper and Skai Moore saved our bacon again. In the end I was happy for Shawn Elliott. I was happy of the kids. They really deserved to feel victory again.
But after it was over I realized we’re still at that space in between. The space between what was and what is to come. Football purgatory, where we still can’t score in the red zone.
Shawn of the Dead. No matter what happens with Elliott he will always have October 17, 2015. As a kid who grew up in South Carolina and dreamed of coaching in Williams Brice, it was the thrill of a lifetime for him I’m sure.
I have to give him credit, even though he is captaining a program with very little hope to do anything significant for the last six weeks of the season, he’s doing everything he can to push the right buttons and make something meaningful of it. From practice habits, to uniforms, down to the music that’s played at the stadium, if there’s an idea he thinks might infuse life into the program you better believe he’s going to try it.
But I also have some advice for him – if he’s wants a serious shot at getting the permanent head coaching job at South Carolina, he’s going to have to stop acting like a guy who just won the lottery. I’m sure that won’t go over well with a lot of you, but this is a classic case of “act like you’ve been there before”. And yes, I know he hasn’t been there before, but he’s been around coaching pretty much his entire life. He knows how this works. There’s a certain decorum that goes with being the head man at a major university. (Dabo is the exception, and I don’t want Dabo.)
I love the enthusiasm, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s something we need, especially on the recruiting trail. I just think he needs to dial it back a few clicks.
The Orth keeps spinning. “Perry Orth sucks” is a text I got yesterday during the game. OK, I guess if you put it in the context of the NFL, or maybe the quarterbacks that rate in the bottom half of Division I football, then maybe he does suck.
But if you put it in the context of a guy who had no college offers, who walked on at South Carolina after a stint at Florida State College at Jacksonville, and basically has no business being our starting quarterback, I think he’s doing a pretty decent job. He’s not going to get consideration for all-conference honors any time soon, but given his path to USC, going 17-28 for 272 with one TD and one interception in a conference game does not “suck”.
(And, if his top receiving target hadn’t dropped two passes, those numbers would look more like 19-28 for 300 yards with 2 TDs and one interception.)
King Tuttch-down. Despite those two drops, Pharoh Cooper still hauled in 7 catches for 160 yards. Even with a former walk-on throwing to him and no clear #2 wide receiver, the King still keeps putting up numbers.
Nealing it. Speaking of no clear #2 wide receiver, DJ Neal (4-49) seems to be getting more comfortable. He would be a good candidate for the #2 guy, and if Pharoh leaves next year, he might be our #1.
Skai ball. Skai Moore is everywhere. Double-digit tackles, an interception and a strip and fumble recovery. I just sat my coffee down and can’t find it. Wonder if he took that too.
Uni watch. I do not like black tops and bottoms. Team garnet all the way.
HBC. Steve Spurrier looked good on TV yesterday morning. He seems to be sticking to the script in every interview, so we didn’t hear anything new. However, during the picks segment he was asked about USC at Notre Dame. He said, “Well there’s a mistake on this sheet because USC is playing Vanderbilt, I’m taking the Gamecocks.” Thumbs up coach, way to go.
Coachwatch. In my very humble opinion, Justin Fuente jumped to the head of the pack yesterday after Memphis’ dominating 37-24 win over Ole Miss. Of course, he’s probably at the top of the list for many other schools as well.
Two other top candidates – Tom Herman and Houston defeated Tulane 42-7, and Alabama and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart defeated Texas A&M 41-23.
Those are the top 3, and I think we could get very excited about any of them.
Go Cocks, enjoy that off week.
Yesterday I was excited to listen to Steve Spurrier appearances on Rick Neuheisel’s XM Radio show and on The Dan Patrick Show. After both I came away with the same impression – man, the dude sounds almost giddy. Maybe it’s my low testosterone levels as a result of my old age, but his willingness to be this happy the day after resigning as my favorite coach of all time kind of hurt my feelings a little. I pretty much dismissed it as “that’s just his style, Spurrier being Spurrier and so forth”, but this morning I woke up to the words below from FOB (friend of the blog) @BeatClem in our inbox. I’m not sure what Spurrier has said or not said so far really matters, we’ll all move along soon enough. But it would be nice to get a little tip of the cap, if not more, from him as he goes along his resignation tour.
The following does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any members of The Rubber Chickens Blog, LLC. But then again it might.
On November 23, 2004, I snuck into The Zone to witness one of the most memorable press conferences in the history of the University of South Carolina athletics – the announcement of the hiring of new head coach, Steve Spurrier. As with most fans, I was excited beyond belief. I actually walked up to him after the press conference and shook his hand as Rick Henry was waiting to conduct his first interview of the new South Carolina coach. I was so excited that I could barely recall the 54-17 whooping the despised ‘Ole Ball Coach put on the Gamecocks just three Novembers prior, in his last season of college football.
(That was another historic day for the Gamecocks, being the first time ESPN College Gameday came to South Carolina, when we thought it would be a good idea to “Black Out” the Gators. The 2001 entrance was the best ever, and Kirk Herbstreit later said he had never heard a louder stadium than when Derek Watson scored to go up 7-0 in the first quarter. But those were the only two highlights. Notably, however, Jon Hoke was the Gators’ defensive coordinator at the time.)
A few games into the 2015 season, I came to the realization, like many other Gamecock fans and apparently Spurrier himself, that it was time for the HBC to retire. In his time here, Spurrier had taken the Gamecock program to unprecedented and historic levels, breaking many records and conquering many “firsts.” Additionally, as Harris Pastides said, “he gave us our swagger.” But the 2014 season, offseason of decommitments, and first few games of 2015 made clear that the program was on the decline. It was evident that recruiting had fallen behind. Coaching decisions were questionable. It was time for a change, and it would take time to rebuild.
As advocated by certain bloggers, I was in favor of a “thoughtful, tender uncoupling” between the Gamecocks and the HBC. As the losses piled up, I envisioned a retirement announcement followed by a farewell tour, where the HBC would lead the Gamecocks for the remaining games “CEO style.” The announcement this week of an immediate separation between the school and Spurrier surprised me at first, but upon reflection seems to make sense. It is not surprising that Spurrier is leaving on his own terms. Everything about his time at South Carolina has been on his terms. However, I don’t see any significant, adverse effect to the school or program created by the immediate separation. Recruiting is the obvious concern, but the uncertainty of next year’s coaching staff is the same regardless if the remaining games are coached by Spurrier or an interim head coach that may or may not remain on staff next year. However, Spurrier may indeed have already been a liability in recruiting since no one knew how long he may actually stick around, despite what he was telling recruits. Frankly, I don’t have any concern with the stated reasons for Spurrier’s insistence that the “uncoupling” be immediate, and in fact agree with many.
However, the more I reflect on Tuesday’s press conference and the events that followed, the more uneasy I feel. It originally struck me as odd that Spurrier immediately wanted to clarify that he was “resigning” and not “retiring.” At first, it sounded like nothing more than Spurrier being Spurrier, but it also gave the impression that he simply wants to do something else, presumably in coaching or television. That he is quitting on the team for his own convenience because the outlook is grim. Now I’m not one of those people calling him a “quitter” because I understand his desire to reduce stress and spend time doing something enjoyable, when it was painfully obvious that coaching the Gamecocks was no longer enjoyable for him. I appreciate that he was “over it” and therefore wanted a clean break. No problem with him quitting now to keep a few losses off his overall coaching record or to preserve his overall win percentage. During the noon press conference, I joked to a friend that he probably had a 2 pm tee time, and it seemed he may have when he abruptly said he was done taking questions. (Indeed, according to some reports, he did hit some golf balls later that afternoon.)
All of that was okay to me. But something continued to bother me. Maybe it was Spurrier’s immediate and unequivocal denial that he would serve as an advisor to USC or be involved in the next coaching search, and that “it would be decided later” what future role he may have with the university. But even more so, I think it was something I didn’t hear Spurrier say in the press conference. I didn’t hear our beloved Head Ball Coach say that he enjoyed his time at South Carolina, cherished the memories made here, appreciated the accomplishments, and would be proud to always consider himself a Gamecock (among the other teams he’s coached).
When asked a pointed question about what message he would like to give to the loyal Gamecock students and fan base, I was expecting him to excitedly say, “continue to be the best fans in the country and support the team just like I will” or something to that effect. Nothing rah-rah Dabo, but something sincere that showed he enjoyed his time here and was now one of us – a proud member of the University of South Carolina fraternity. Instead, with absolutely no emotion and classic shrug of the shoulders, he said, “I’m no longer the head coach, so I’d just thank them for all they’ve done. I don’t really have a message.” He thanked the fans for “receiving” him and his family. And with that, he abruptly concluded the press conference, “Okay let’s get moving, I’ve had enough here.”
That bugged me. I wanted him to talk about South Carolina like he does Duke and Florida, and convince me that he has the same type of feelings toward the Gamecocks. That he would always hold a special place in his heart for his time spent here. That he was a fan. Forever to thee.
The empty feeling I had turned slightly to disgust when I later learned that Spurrier would not be attending this weekend’s Vanderbilt game, but instead would be a guest on ESPN College Gameday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Talk about a clean break. He was done with us. No looking back. We got dumped like a high school girlfriend, and he’s already dating someone else. Although I envisioned seeing Spurrier on College Gameday eventually, I didn’t think it would be this week since the Saturday morning SportsCenter is broadcasting live from Columbia, which I assumed would include a Spurrier segment or live interview. (Why else come to Columbia?) But like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, poof, he was gone.
Immediately ditching us for College Gameday is a slap in the face. I still don’t consider Spurrier a quitter, but now feel like he is turning his back on us. Initially, I jokingly wondered if he would go on to pick Vandy to beat the Gamecocks this weekend, but then realized that is PRECISELY the sort of thing the Head Ball Coach would do just to get a laugh from the nation. At our expense, no less.
Like many others, I love the Gamecocks and have spent more time and money supporting them than I should have over the years. So it was disappointing to realize that Steve Spurrier doesn’t adore South Carolina like he adores Florida and Duke. But more disappointing was the realization that the Head Ball Coach doesn’t care for the Gamecocks as much as Gamecock nation cares for him. I wonder if he cared at all.
History will show that Steve Spurrier was a Gamecock. I just hope he is proud of it.