Buckshots: 2015 Gamecock Flashback

15-fb-mg-cover-300x388This series of audio blog posts recapping every season since 1987 were originally posted prior to the 2013 season. The 2015 season was recorded and posted prior to the beginning of the 2016 campaign. 

The 2015 Gamecock football season began with cautious optimism that Steve Spurrier could rebound the team from a  disappointing 2014 season and get back in the hunt in the SEC East.

Unfortunately, everything went downhill fast after a season opening victory over North Carolina. Losses began to mount and shortly after a historic natural disaster in the the state, Spurrier came to the realization that he wasn’t the man to lead the Gamecocks back to prominence, so he left mid-season.

Shawn Elliott tried his darnedest, but after a 1-0 start to his head coaching career, his team suffered through tough losses to good teams, and then an embarrassing loss to FCS The Citadel. A close loss to Clemson brought to a close one of the most worst seasons in South Carolina football history.

Sound like fun? Hell no it wasn’t fun! But Buck is here to recap every game for you, and remind you to cherish those good times, because they don’t always last. Here’s how to listen:

Stream it here or click the graphic below

iTunes link here

Enjoy!

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The War on Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney

Ah, yes, August. When the boys of fall gather to prepare for a new season of our favorite sport. Pads and helmets cracking, crushed tires getting stuck in the shoes of players and coaches, junior college coaches challenging referees to fights, repetitive practice reports.

And over the last few years, the continuation of The War on Jadeveon Clowney.

I came across this article today on The Ringer entitled The One-Hit Wonder, with the sub-head Have We Already Seen the Best of Jadeveon Clowney?

The post is mostly fair, wondering if Clowney will ever develop into the most dominant defender in the NFL that seemed to be his destiny a few short years ago. And I must admit,  each passing practice session or exhibition game or regular season game where I read “Clowney will not suit up” or “Clowney inactive” allows more doubt to creep into my Clowney-loving mind that maybe he never will live up to his billing. But more often than not the reports and responses to Clowney’s injury misfortune slip into mean-spirited hot takes – he’s lazy, he has no work ethic, he’s a bum. Now we’re even starting to see the ugliest word that can be attributed to a first-round draft pick be bandied about – BUST.

But the attacks on Clowney started before the Houston Texans made him the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. After a spectacular sophomore season at South Carolina, someone floated the idea that Clowney should consider skipping his junior season and start preparing for the draft as the presumptive first pick. Even though Clowney flatly stated that he never even considered that as an option, somehow the idea became attached to him like a parasite. All of the sudden he was a bad teammate for considering something that he never even considered.

Then, when JD didn’t live up to the unrealistic standard we had all set for him in his junior season, he was roundly criticized by those outside of the Gamecock community. Again, he was lazy. He didn’t want to be here. He was selfish. He had poor work ethic. Never mind the fact every offense we faced designed their entire gameplan around not letting number 7 beat them. He consistently had 2-3 men blocking him. How else do you think Kelcy Quarles picked up 9.5 sacks that season?

Even after a spectacular pro day solidified his seemingly tenuous position as the number one pick, it didn’t matter. People had made up their minds, and their minds are still made up. But we’ve added another label to Clowney since he entered the NFL:  injury-prone. This label is unfortunately justified, but is completely unrelated to all the other labels that have been used to tear down Clowney over the last few years. Just ask all the coaches and trainers who have worked with JD, and they’ll tell you he has worked his ass off to get back on the field and nobody is more frustrated than he is. Bill O’Brien, head coach of the Texans, is about as no-nonsense an NFL head coach as you’ll find, and he has been very supportive of Clowney throughout his injury troubles. If Bill O’Brien thought Clowney wasn’t working hard enough to get back, I promise you you would know about it.

Most importantly there is the nature of Clowney’s most significant injury – cartilage damage that required microfracture surgery. You can read a little detail about microfracture surgery in the linked article, but basically it is a career-threatening injury and procedure. It is not career-threatening in a “never play again” sense, but in a “will never be the same” sense.

Gosder Cherilus, then playing offensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, had undergone and returned from microfracture surgery himself. At the time, Cherilus’s prognosis for the then-21-year-old Clowney was as succinct as it was damning: “He’s screwed.”

“Cartilage doesn’t heal. It’s one of the few tissues that doesn’t heal at all,” Gomoll said. “If you cut your skin, at least it heals with a scar. If you cut your liver, it heals with liver tissue. If you break a bone, it heals with bone. But with cartilage, for reasons we still don’t completely understand, it just doesn’t heal.”

When Marcus Lattimore suffered a career-threatening (and ultimately career-ending) knee injury, the outpouring of support and empathy was overwhelming. Nobody called him a bust when he gave up his comeback and decided to retire from the 49ers. But Jadeveon Clowney is getting crucified for his inability – so far – to return from a potentially career-threatening injury. What has Clowney done, or not done, to deserve this derision?

(Quick note: I understand how different these injuries were and how the comparison might not sit well with some. Lattimore’s injury was extremely public, and gruesome, while Clowney’s was private, and invisible to us. However, we are still talking about a career-threatening injury for JD, so the point stands.)

I want Clowney to succeed in the NFL in the worst way. I want him to prove everyone wrong. I truly believe he’s working as hard as he can to get back on the field for the Texans, but his body so far has betrayed him. If he doesn’t make it in the League I will never, ever lower myself to calling him all those names his enemies are calling him with a self-satisfied smirk on their face.

Clowney chose the University of South Carolina when he could’ve literally chosen any school in the country. He gave us some of our greatest memories during our greatest seasons. He did nothing truly worthy of ridicule while he was here, and I believe he has done nothing worthy of ridicule since he’s been in the NFL, unless you consider getting injured worthy of ridicule.

Either way, you cannot make me not love Jadeveon Clowney.

 

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TRC Unleashed 87 – Reunion Tour

Buck, Tbone and the Gman return after their longest hiatus yet. There’s plenty to ponder, including:

  • How do we feel about Will Muschamp on the eve of his first season
  • How do we feel about the Gamecock football team as a whole
  • Who will be the starting QB
  • What the hell is wrong with David Williams
  • Why the hell would you think we could win 8 or 9 games
  • Our award-winning Twitter Questions segment
  • Gone Demetra Gone

All this and so, so much more. We’re glad to be back, and hope you are glad we’re back. And if you are we’ll be glad that you’re glad that we’re back aw hell here’s the links:

iTunes Link

Streaming: Click here or click the graphic, and ENJOY.

TRC-Unleashed-Button

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Fan Miscues Cost Gamecocks in Regional Opener

Staked to an early 4-0 lead against the regional number 4 seed, Gamecock fans appeared to be cruising and thinking about their Saturday opponent.

But plucky Rhode Island had different ideas, rallying for five runs over two innings and riding their ace and a strong bullpen performance to a 5-4 upset of top-seeded South Carolina and their fans (some of who, ahem, LEFT EARLY).

Two early home runs by the Gamecocks had Flounders Park rocking, but through the middle innings the fans appeared to grow complacent. Pitching coach Jerry Meyers said head coach Chad Holbrook’s 7th-inning ejection was an effort to get the fans going.

“Oh yeah, he was very disappointed in the fans’ performance tonight,” Meyers said. “You can’t get comfortable up there in the stands. The quiet makes it hard to make quality pitches, and it’s a statistical fact batting averages drop about 100 points when people aren’t standing and cheering for you.”

Meyers said the big blow was later in the 7th inning when attendance was announced.

“6823…” he said as his voice trailed off. After taking a minute to collect himself he continued.

“If 7,000 fans can’t get their butts up and make it to the ballpark for the most important games of the year then we might as well lock the gates and play in front of nobody.”

Second baseman D.C. Arendas agreed.

“Yeah, we tried to keep it together, but there were definitely some emotional guys in the dugout when attendance was announced. Then, in the eighth inning I look up and some fans are actually leaving…”

At that point Arendas shook his head, stood up and left the podium.

We caught up with Gamecock fan Scott Adamson after the game.

“I personally didn’t have it tonight, no doubt,” he said. “I think the entire fan base was looking past Rhode Island. There was no rhythm to our ‘Game’ ‘Cocks’ chant. I spilled some Coke on my Southern Tide shorts in 3rd inning and that really threw me off. All we can do is apologize to the team and work hard to be better tomorrow.”

When asked about his players’ performance, Coach Meyers fired back.

“The PLAYERS? You think this is about the players? It’s not about the players, the coaches, the grounds crew, Andy Demetra…well, maybe it’s  little about Demetra…”

“This loss, and all our losses, are on the fans,” Meyers said. “They sit on their hands, and if they’re not sitting on their hands they’re playing Angry Birds or some crap on their phones. Or they’re online key banging some nonsense about how we shouldn’t be bunting…and by the way, we should ALWAYS BE BUNTING…”

At which point he ripped off his jersey to reveal a black shirt with “ABB” written across it in large block letters.

“It’s pathetic. The fans have to step up for us to win. That’s the bottom line.”

 

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The Curious Case of Gamecock Baseball

chad-holbrook2

(Photo: SportsTalk)

I come in peace. I am a concerned Gamecock citizen, and I want to talk some things through with you about our baseball team. So take your hands off the keyboard and back away. Slowly. Now put your hands where I can see them. Good.

First of all, there are two overarching questions that we should address regarding South Carolina baseball:

  1. Has this been a successful season?
  2. Has Chad Holbrook done a good job?

On the surface these sound like simple yes or no questions, but we all know that’s far from the truth. The answer to these questions depends largely on the context in which you are considering them.

If you’re looking at things through a 12-month window, you’ll see propaganda like this:

Sounds reasonable. Holbrook has taken this team from their worst season in over a decade to 40+ wins, an SEC East championship, and a regional hosting assignment.

But hold up a minute, this is Holbrook’s fourth season at the helm, why did we even need a bounce back season? Who got us in this position in the first place?

Oh right, Chad Holbrook.

Holbrook took over the South Carolina baseball team after the greatest run in the history of Gamecock sports, and the greatest run in the history of the NCAA baseball tournament. We’re familiar with what happened, but let’s recap:

  • 2010 – National Champions
  • 2011 – National Champions
  • 2012 – National runner-up
  • Mid-2012 – Chad Holbrook takes over for Ray Tanner
  • 2013 – Eliminated – NCAA Super Regional
  • 2014 – Eliminated – NCAA Regional
  • 2015 – Missed the NCAA Tournament

As we all know, there was a significant downward trend over Holbrook’s first three years. To go from two games from a third consecutive national title to missing the NCAA tournament altogether is more than a little disturbing. This year has been nice, with series sweeps over Ole Miss, Arkansas and Alabama among others. But it has also been frustrating, with series losses to the likes of Georgia and Kentucky, whose seasons are now over.

Hooray, we came within a half game of an overall SEC Championship!🙂

Dammit, we came within a half game of an overall SEC Championship!😦

Here’s the thing – I am not a #FireHolbrook-er. The calls for his head are from the lunatic fringe and are at times over the top. But at the same time, there have been no convincing arguments that lead me to believe he is the guy to lead us back to national prominence.

Look at the job he’s done this year!

He has done a nice job, but I’m not really ready to praise the guy who drove my Ferrari into a telephone pole for taking it to the shop and getting it fixed.

It took Tanner several years to get the Gamecocks to the CWS!

Ray Tanner was handed an average baseball team playing in an outdated stadium in 1997 and in his fourth season was the #1 national seed. In his sixth season he was playing for the national championship. His teams made it to the CWS six times.

Chad Holbrook was handed the best program with the best facility in the nation and in his third season was watching the NCAA tournament on TV.

(Unfair comparison? Probably, but it’s one that’s being made.)

There was nowhere to go but down!

I really hate this one. Down to me is not making the CWS, or maybe not making it out of a regional play. But we went down, and down, and then down again.

Who made this rule? In the midst of their run of 10 consecutive national titles, do you think John Wooden was telling his guys at UCLA, “well boys, we’ve won so many in a row, there’s nowhere to go but down!” That’s a seed you never want to plant, my friends.

Then there are just stupid tweets that insult our fan base:

How is that even relevant?

I get the Holbrook defenders, I really do. Coaches get chewed up and spit out on such a regular basis and you don’t want to see a guy like Holbrook become part of that statistic when he’s winning like he’s done this year.

But for the folks on the other side, I get you too. Holbrook has not earned the benefit of the doubt yet. He has made head-scratching in-game decisions on the reg (h/t @ChickenHoops). He has not proven that he can win the big one. And yes, Ray Tanner carried that albatross his first five years.

At times I may sound like a #FireHolbrook-er, but I promise I’m not. One reason is I know how traumatic coaching changes are to a program. I WANT Chad Holbrook to succeed, for all of our sakes. The other reason is I know he has a minimum two years of rope left. Think about it, he’s Ray Tanner’s hand-picked successor, and no matter what happens this weekend in Columbia, he’ll be back based on this year’s “turnaround”. Next year’s team will be better than this one, so we will be looking at at least another regional hosting gig, and maybe better. Something really disastrous would have to happen for him to not be here until at least 2019.

The South Carolina baseball program has given Gamecock fans their greatest sports moments. They are an elite program in a department devoid of elite programs. And the problem right now is a lot of people don’t TRUST that crown jewel in the hands of Chad Holbrook. And until he gives us a reason to trust him, the debate will rage on.

 

 

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Snap Judgments – Basketball Edition

imgresI checked Twitter after I left church yesterday to find that most “bracketologists” were leaving South Carolina out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. This came one sleep cycle after they were still in, probably as a 10 seed, and after they had lost their quarterfinal game in the SEC Tournament against Georgia. And that came one sleep cycle after they were solidly in, not even relegated to the “last four in” column.

As the day progressed I resigned myself to the fact they were not going to make it. I still had a glimmer of hope, but that inner Gamecock defense mechanism kicked in to help dull the inevitable pain of another spring – this makes 12 in a row – without my team in the Big Dance.

It made sense after all. They lost to an awful Missouri team. They lost to a bad Mississippi State team. An average-at-best Georgia team beat them three times. Their out of conference schedule sucked even though they won every one of those games. The prosecution had a pretty good case built as to why a 24-win power five conference team shouldn’t make it.

The first bad omen came before the awful CBS Selection Show (more on that later) – Frank Martin and the team were not attending a Gamecock watch party, they were watching privately. As he stated later, he received information that “things didn’t look good”. The second bad omen was the first bracket and the first 10 seed – Temple. The Owls were consistently a “last four in” or “first four out” from what I had seen, so there went one of the Gamecocks’ spots. Then…

Vanderbilt.

What? We beat them, finished higher than them in conference, and they were beaten by an awful Tennessee team in the SEC Tournament.

Syracuse.

Double what? 19-13 with some bad losses, most people didn’t even have them on the bubble.

Tulsa.

Hold up, are we doing the NIT bracket now? This is a joke, right?

Like many of you, the anger began to swell within me. South Carolina not making the tournament for the reasons listed above is one thing, but having those three get in – two of whom we beat head to head – was not acceptable. I’m usually the last person to scream “we got screwed”, but

WE GOT SCREWED

Yes, the tough love folks are still telling me this morning “win more games” and “we have no one to blame but ourselves”. And that’s mostly right. But every bubble team or team that didn’t get as high a seed as they expected could repeat that mantra (hey, Michigan State, you want a #1 seed, then WIN MORE GAMES). The fact is we were being directly compared to other teams on the bubble that had bad losses, or maybe not enough good wins, or maybe not enough wins period. When you stack up all the data, I think there is no doubt we are one of the best 36 at-large teams in the country.

Win more games, control your own destiny and don’t leave it in the hands of the committee? Yes, of course. But when the committee ignores important things like beating the teams you were competing with for a spot in the tournament, then I think it’s fair to be at least a little pissed.

And most of us are more than a little pissed.

Frank Martin. I’m not trying to set up a straw man here because I’ve only seen one person directly pin the blame for this season’s failures on Frank Martin. But I have seen other tweets indirectly referencing such, so I want to use it as a jumping off point to talk about the job Martin has done:

If you think Frank Martin has not done a good job at South Carolina, then you are a moron.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the good job he has done. First of all, he inherited a complete disaster from Darrin Horn, then had to deal with the transfers of two of South Carolina’s best players in Anthony Gill and Damontre Harris. He filled the roster as best he could those first two seasons and limped to 14-18 and 14-20 seasons.

Last year the team stumbled out of the gate (losses to Charlotte and Akron) but closed the out of conference slate with impressive wins over Oklahoma State, Clemson and Iowa State. A 2-8 start in conference play doomed our chances at any postseason action, but two wins in the SEC Tournament gave us a glimpse into the future.

Perhaps the biggest sin the Gamecocks and Martin committed this year was creating unrealistic expectations by darting out to a 15-0 start. For most of the season an NCAA Tournament berth seemed like a foregone conclusion. But what people forgot was the core of this team was the same as the teams that finished a combined seven games under .500 over the previous three years (24 games under .500 in conference play). We were still prone to the things that dogged us those years, mainly a lack of consistent production on the offensive end. What helped us persevere more often than not were things that don’t show up in the box score, including the experience and leadership of Sindarius Thornwell and Michael Carrera.

We are a work in progress, but Frank Martin has this program trending up. I’m confident future Selection Sundays will be just as stressful as yesterday, but for different reasons – like wondering what our seeding and region will be.

Talent. Brace yourselves because some of you are not going to like this, but this is also a testament to the job Frank Martin has done – our basketball team is not very talented. Before you get bent out of shape over that statement, I think it is a compliment to Martin and every member of the team that I can say that about a team that won 24 games in a power five conference.

Look at it this way, we have two kids on our team who were highly-ranked recruits – Thornwell and P.J. Dozier. I’d say Chris Silva was probably about a half-step below those two. I’m not a big follower of basketball recruiting, but was anyone else on our roster a big “get”? Carrera busted his ass and made himself an all-SEC performer by his senior year, but not many people wanted a skinny 6’5” post player out of high school. When you look at the rest of the roster, with few exceptions, those are guys that weren’t necessarily our first choices.

I’m saying all of this as a compliment to the players and the staff. We accomplished something quite good considering the team we had to cobble together.

That being said, if Frank Martin has had a failing at USC, it has been his inability to land more high-profile recruits, and specifically a scorer. Think about if we had any combination of Danuel House, LJ Peak and Tevin Mack, or if we had Seventh Woods or Dewan Huell coming in next year. We were a finalist for all of these guys, and they all went elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to have the likes of Sedee Keita, Rakym Felder and Maik Kotsar coming, but none of them appear to be program changers. We need THAT GUY. You know the one. The one that can hit a step back jumper when the game is on the line. The one who can finish strong at the rim and get an and-1 at the most critical moment.

Frank does really well with the good players. I’d love to see what he could do with the great players. We just have to land a few.

NIT. I’ll be watching every minute of every game. I want to cut down the nets in NYC. I want Carrera, Chat and Mindy to go out as the winningest team in South Carolina history. But it’s still the NIT, and if there is a celebration, it will be a muted one.

CBS. You ruined it CBS. The thirty minute Selection Show was the best 30 minutes of television of the year. But you got greedy, and that abomination of a two-hour special was unfair to the players and fans alike. Not to mention it was boring and just plain bad.

Go Cocks.

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Boom or Bust, or Something In Between

(Photo: al.com)

(Photo: al.com)

Today Will Muschamp was named the 34th head coach in the history of University of South Carolina football. Over the course of the last few weeks my thought process regarding Muschamp has gone a little something like this:

  • What a ridiculous idea, but it’s not gonna happen so I’m not worried
  • Holy cow he’s moved into the top 3 this is worrisome
  • What do you mean all signs point to Muschamp?
  • We’re really going to hire Muschamp where’s the key to the liquor cabinet

To a certain extent I was being a lemming, following the anti-Muschamp crowd crowing about what a disaster he was at Florida (and he was, that’s still valid). But adding to my dismay was the complete cluster the coaching search was (which is a story for another day), which made the hire feel that much worse.

There are two things that have us concerned. The first and most important is his tenure at Florida, where he inherited a team that had won two National Championships in the previous four years. Muschamp guided them to a very average 28-21 record over his four years, and that included an 11-2 record in 2013. He fielded top 10 defenses and pulled in top 10 recruiting classes every year he was there, but his offenses were anemic, and that ultimately led to his ouster. Sure, there were injuries, and there were problems at the quarterback position, but this was Florida, a place where it shouldn’t be hard to roll the ball on the field and win 9-10 games per year.

The other concern is his demeanor. He’s known as a guy who easily loses control of his emotions, which is not a great quality as to have as a head coach. Photos and videos of his angry face and tirades have permeated our Twitter timeline for weeks now. He was and is still the butt of jokes nationally for his failure at Florida.

But the fact is Muschamp is well-respected in the coaching community. When Gus Malzahn hired him at Auburn last year he called Muschamp “the best defensive mind in football, not just college football.” By many accounts he had several coaches and former players advocating for him to Ray Tanner. He was a coaching superstar just a few years ago, rising to head-coach-in-waiting at Texas under Mack Brown. When he was offered the Florida job it was simply too good to pass up, and he was going to be a can’t miss replacement for Urban Meyer.

Unfortunately for him, he did miss. Big time.

A little after 11 a.m. this morning my mood started to change. As Will Muschamp spoke what I saw was that coaching superstar from a few years ago at Texas. I saw a tireless worker (unlike our previous HBC) and a guy passionate and excited about his new job. I saw a man who believes recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and you better be damn good at it. I saw somebody who knows, at the tender age of 44, that this could be his last chance to be a major college head coach.

For the first time, I saw a guy I liked. I saw a guy that I’m glad to have on my side.

I have no idea what the future holds for Will Muschamp at the University of South Carolina. He might boom, he might bust. The odds say he’ll probably fall somewhere in between.

Either way, it’s time for all of us to stop bitching (especially me) and support Will Muschamp. After all, he’s a Gamecock now.

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TRC Unleashed 86 – Kornblut Talks Coaching Search

On TRC-U 86 the boys discuss the Clemson game and welcome Sportstalk’s Phil Kornblut to the show to discuss the South Carolina coaching search. Who’s it gonna be? Is Tom Herman in play? (Probably not, but we talk about it anyway.) Will we settle for Will Muschamp? (Probably, and it’s depressing.)

We also take your Twitter questions, which are mostly about the coaching search too. WE’RE SO SICK OF THE COACHING SEARCH.

Here’s the iTunes link for you hipsters.

You can also stream here or by clicking the graphic, and enjoy!

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The Case (Forgive Me Lord) Against Mark Richt

Mark-RichtAfter listening to Mark Richt speak one day after his dismissal as head coach at Georgia, there are a number of things I’d like for him to do, including but not limited to: teach my Sunday School class, be the executor of my will, come to our family Christmas dinner, accompany me on a trip to an orphanage in Kenya, have a long talk with my kids about the importance of character, and so on.

There is one thing I do not want him to do: become the head coach at the University of South Carolina.

That’s kind of hard for me to say because, as we know, Mark Richt is one of the finest people we have ever encountered in the world of college football sports life. I frequently tell my kids that at the end of your life what you did is much less important than who you were. Richt epitomizes that.

But while he would be great to have around our football program, he is still not the right head football coach for South Carolina. The reason is that it is highly doubtful he could replicate his success with the Gamecocks.

When Richt came to Georgia as a young man, the program was in disarray. They had two failed regimes after the legendary Vince Dooley retired – Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. Richt realized the potential at UGA quickly, winning the SEC Championship in 2002 and 2005, and capturing six SEC Eastern Division titles. The Bulldogs also came up one play short of playing for the National Championship in 2012.

But Richt could never break through that ceiling at Georgia and put his team among the national elite year in and year out, which in my opinion is where they belong. While he won consistently, there were mind-boggling blowout losses by teams considered to be his best. Georgia fans will argue that while he won a lot the Bulldogs always seemed to lay an egg when the stage was biggest.

Now understand, he did all of this while at the helm of a program that has no excuse to not be Alabama, or Florida, or LSU, or Auburn. In other words, teams that have national championships in recent years. Georgia is in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting bases in the country, and they capitalize on it every year with elite recruiting classes. They have a rabid fan base, a national brand that can help pull top-ranked players from places as far away as Texas and Washington state, and practically all the resources they need to have a national championship program.

Yet, they have no national championships in 15 years under Mark Richt.

Now, let’s deal with some uncomfortable truths about the South Carolina job. We do not have a national brand. When it comes to recruiting, we typically get the leftovers that the SEC elites didn’t have room for. We have very little tradition or championships to speak of. Our brands the last 15 years have been Holtz and Spurrier, not the South Carolina Gamecocks, and we can attribute our recent successes more to our coaches than to our program’s awesomeness.

The conclusion is, if Richt couldn’t win enough at Georgia, what makes you think he could win at South Carolina? If his ceiling at Georgia was an average of 9-10 wins per year, at USC it would probably be somewhere around 7-8. Given what I wrote in the paragraph above some of you might say “sign me up”, but I’m not among that crowd.

You’re also probably asking “then who CAN get us to that next level?” I’m afraid I don’t know the answer for sure, but there’s a very short list of people I’d rather see try than Mark Richt.

For once in my life I’m advocating for the devil we don’t know, as opposed to the saint that we do.

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Snap Judgments – 2015 Clemson @ USC Edition

Farewell Pharoh (Photo: thestate.com)

Farewell Pharoh (Photo: thestate.com)

Finished. As the game ended against Clemson yesterday a feeling of relief washed over me. This miserable season is finally over, and as a mild bonus we played the number one ranked team in the country to the wire. I appreciate the effort of the players and coaches yesterday, and to be competitive for 60 minutes was more than a little surprising after the debacle against The Citadel last week. But if any Clemson lurkers think we’re chalking it up as a “moral victory” you’re dead wrong. Losing to the Tigers sucks no matter the circumstances.

So now we move on to the coaching search, which I’ll get into below. We’ll also start looking up and down the roster to find out who will attempt to fill the shoes of Pharoh Cooper, who we know we’re losing, and Skai Moore, who seems likely to leave as well. If anything, close losses to the likes of Texas A&M, Tennessee and Clemson tell me we might not be that far away from respectability. After losing to the likes of Missouri and Kentucky early, and then having our head coach ride off into the sunset mid-season, Shawn Elliott and Co. held it together and mostly fielded an undermanned but competitive team (Citadel notwithstanding).

Over the next few months our wish list should include:

  • A new, young head coach who is a dynamic recruiter and innovative offensive mind (the latter my wish, not necessarily that of the administration).
  • A quarterback not named Perry Orth, although I thought he did a really good job under difficult circumstances. On the roster we have Lorenzo Nunez – who is a good runner but has not proven he can throw the ball with consistency yet – and Connor Mitch, the most talented QB on the roster, but a guy I’m not convinced will be at USC next year. The wild card is commitment Brandon McIlwain, provided we can hang on to him through the coaching change. He has the tools to come in and start right away, but that’s a lot to ask of a true freshman quarterback.
  • A dynamic wide receiver or two. Pharoh’s departure leaves a gaping hole in the roster. Deebo Samuel finally returned from injury last week and yesterday showed us what we’ve been missing all season with five catches for 105 yards and his first career touchdown. DJ Neal showed flashes, and we redshirted Jerad Washington, Jalen Christian and Christian Owens. I’m guessing Deebo becomes the number one guy, but out of the other four we’ll need considerably more production than we had out of our 2 and 3 guys this season.
  • A difference maker at running back. With the very average duo of Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson graduating, that leaves the very average David Williams and a pair of redshirt freshmen in AJ Turner and Mon Denson. Either Williams needs to live up to his potential or one of the other two has to turn heads in the spring.
  • SEC caliber DBs. I look up and down the roster and at our recruiting class and wonder where these are going to come from.

No matter how all of this plays out, we’ll be depending on a lot of unproven players in 2016. I just hope the unproven players next year are better than our unproven players this year.

Broken record. I feel like I’ve said this every week, but when you start walk-on at quarterback, most of the time you’re going to get the production of a walk-on. Perry Orth has been more good than bad for most of the season, but yesterday his inconsistency hurt us. It will be good to have his experience and leadership on the team next year, but as stated above I hope it’s as a back-up.

No ball skills. The touchdown from Deshaun Watson the Deion Cain to put the Tigers up 14-0 was about as maddening as it gets. Al Harris, Jr. had excellent coverage all the way down the field, then as the ball was dropping he started to fade under it as if to catch it. This would be fine if Cain hadn’t been between him and the ball. Harris made a last gasp attempt to swat at the ball but by then Cain had him beat to the inside. We can blame scheme for the 15-yard cushions we gave receivers all year, but the bigger problem is our DBs never made plays even when they were in position to do so. (see: Chris Lammons)

FUMMMMBLLLLE. The fumble that wasn’t a fumble was a fumble.

Shawn of the Dead. Kudos to Shawn Elliott. Despite only winning one game as a head coach at South Carolina, he said and did just about everything the right way. He brought energy, professed his love for the university and his players, and even changed up the uniform combinations a few times to the delight of the players and fans. He won’t be remembered for winning games, but he will be remembered for being a damn good guy.

Coachwatch ’15. As I was writing this I got the news that Mark Richt has been fired at Georgia. This could definitely impact our pursuit of Kirby Smart, as the former UGA player has long been mentioned as a replacement for Richt. But UGA is a top 5 job in the country, and I have a hard time seeing the Bulldogs replace Richt with a defensive coordinator. I think they’ll be aiming higher.

As far as we go, it sounds like Tom Herman is not completely out of the running, but another name that has gained traction in the last week if UNC’s Larry Fedora. I know that won’t make many Gamecock fans happy, but with all the jobs open this fall we might be running out of options.

Loose lips. First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, we like the guys at Sportstalk a whole lot. Kevin McCrarey was a guest on our podcast a couple of years ago, and he and Phil Kornblut had us on their radio show back in the spring. Besides being genuinely good guys, Kornblut is a radio legend in the state of South Carolina, and McCrarey was the 2014 Sportscaster of the Year in the state. In other words, they know what they’re doing.

So we’re biased, but we can’t understand all the vitriol being thrown at Kornblut over his Tom Herman report last week. In case you missed it, Kornblut reported that a Herman deal was imminent with USC, and that a handshake deal had been reached. The story goes that Herman was “furious” that word got out, and later supposedly withdrew his name from consideration for the job. Many people are blaming Sportstalk for blowing it with Herman.

So, a couple of things here. First, Phil Kornblut and Sportstalk have no obligation whatsoever – NONE – to protect or ensure that South Carolina hires the right football coach, or the coach they want. They also have no obligation to “keep a secret”, unless their source(s) specifically ask that the information they are giving not be published. It would be dumb for Sportstalk to publish information they were told was off the record because they would more than likely lose that source forever. I know Phil and the rest of the team at Sportstalk are men of integrity. You don’t last in the business as long as they have by publishing ill-gotten information.

Second, we’re talking about a major, major life change here for Tom Herman, his family, and his assistant coaches. Do you really think he would back out a deal with USC because that information leaked? If that’s what he says (and to my knowledge HE has not actually said that) then it is a smokescreen. There is something more going on behind the scenes, like he has a bigger, better job he’s after.

If you want to lay blame, then it should be with the administration and the folks conducting the coaching search. You sometimes leak information on purpose during coaching searches, but it has to be the right information at the right time. Information that can benefit your search. One of two things happened – either they misjudged what the right information or the right time was, or somebody talked about something when they shouldn’t have.

Either way, blaming Sportstalk is simply misplaced anger.

 

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