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.