Steve Spurrier replacement options: Who should the Gamecocks pursue nationally?
Ray Tanner will be a busy man over the next two months.
Steve Spurrier’s provided South Carolina’s athletic director with a head start on the job search following Monday’s news of the HBC’s imminent departure from the football program. For several months, heck, even a year dating back to last season, the writing’s been scribbled on the wall that the 70-year-old Head Ball Coach was close to packing up his office.
It’s Tanner’s turn to officially put out feelers and several calls to agents, gauging potential interest in the Gamecocks’ opening, college football’s second-best gig right now behind the other USC.
South Carolina’s priority checklist in coaching search:
- Strong recruiter first and foremost
- Sexy offense (ties into recruiting to an extent)
- Proven track record
Finding all three of these in one candidate might be next to impossible, but we’ve put together a phone interview list to make Tanner’s job just a little easier. These guys are in no particular order, though I would venture to say Tom Herman, Jake Spavital and Mike Gundy would accept an initial offer without much convincing.
Chip Kelly, HC, Philadelphia Eagles — He’s one of football’s hottest offensive masterminds. Kelly’s a system recruiter and a good one at that. The Gamecocks would have to back a Brinks truck to his front door with a blank check. At least for now, Kelly feels unobtainable in Columbia, but he’s worth a call.
Mark Dantonio, HC, Michigan State — A star defensive back at South Carolina in the class of 1979, bringing Dantonio back to the SEC would be a tough sell for Tanner considering the coach’s extreme comfort level in East Lansing. Now in his ninth year, the two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year is 30-3 over the last 2.5 seasons with the Spartans. According to oddsmakers, he’s a long shot like Kelly.
Tom Herman, HC, Houston — Have you seen Ohio State’s offense this season without its former offensive coordinator? The Buckeyes have noticeably back-tracked without a rhythm. Meanwhile, the reigning national assistant coach of the year is 5-0 with the Cougars and has received a verbal commitment from five-star prospect Ed Oliver for the 2016 class. Reminder, this is at Houston.
Jake Spavital, OC, Texas A&M — One of the nation’s youngest coordinators (30), Spavital’s helped establish Texas A&M’s Air Raid offense as the SEC’s most potent during his tenure. He’s learned route concepts and his tempo-driven offense from the likes of Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Gus Malzahn (Tulsa) and Kevin Sumlin. Most importantly, Spavital could also help the Gamecocks battle back in the East recruiting war against the likes of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. Spavital has signed five-star quarterbacks in consecutive classes (Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray) and has a commitment from another for 2016.
Mike Gundy, HC, Oklahoma State — Two years ago, the “I’m a man, I’m 40” offensive juggernaut was real close to becoming Tennessee’s next head coach. He has spunk, he’s a proven winner and if the money’s right, I’d bet he would leave his alma-mater for a crack in the SEC. He’ll get a phone call.
Ed Orgeron, DL, LSU — Perhaps the most dynamic recruiter on this list, Orgeron has the proven power to go into any hotbed of prep talent in the SEC footprint and grab elite prospects. A defensive guru with a fiery Cajun demeanor, Orgeron’s coached at three different programs in the SEC (head coach at Ole Miss, assistant at Tennessee/LSU) and was USC’s interim head coach during the 2013 campaign.
Other rumor mill names include Charlie Strong (Texas HC), Kirby Smart (Alabama DC), Justin Fuente (Memphis HC) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona HC).