Will a 6th offensive coordinator make a difference in Will Muschamp's South Carolina future?
Barring a complete 180 against Clemson, it appears significant offensive changes are on the way if coach Will Muschamp is, in fact, set to return for a 5th season in 2020.
How much offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon is to blame is up for debate, but the coaching staff has already switched spots this season during games, with McClendon moving from the sidelines to the press box, and QB coach Dan Werner going to the sidelines.
As the Gamecocks have worked through this offensive malaise, that was a move the coaching staff hoped offered a spark. After all, McClendon had started his play-calling career in the box, a setup that lasted 6 games before a rain storm last year against Missouri knocked out South Carolina’s headsets. The moved helped McClendon, who also coaches the receivers, iron out the offense after a series of drops.
It’s unknown how many adjustments are left to be made, even in a bye week, so it would be logical if McClendon is in a new role in the offseason, or moves on from the program.
If that’s the case, Muschamp would be looking for a 6th offensive coordinator as a head coach after Charlie Weis, Brent Pease, Kurt Roper (twice) and McClendon. Some foreshadowing has come from Muschamp’s comments in the last month.
— Mike Gillespie (@MikeABCColumbia) October 29, 2019
In a sentiment he has expressed in recent weeks about the offense, Muschamp explained Roper’s firing from South Carolina this way: “I just think we need to be more productive, at the end of the day,” Muschamp said.
In late 2017, South Carolina ranked 109th nationally in yards per game with 337 yards. This year, the Gamecocks are 79th at 390 yards.
At Florida, Weis left after one season to coach Kansas after the Gators were 10th in the 12-team SEC in total offense, and Muschamp brought in Pease, with ideally a spark from the Boise State offenses. But the Florida teams in 2012 and 2013 were led by defense and remembered for injuries, and the offenses were just asked to do enough to get by. The Gators ranked last in the SEC in total offense in 2013, and were 12th in 2012.
South Carolina this season is 9th in total offense, and the Gamecocks were seventh last season.
In 2014, Florida brought in Roper to work with QB Jeff Driskel, but short conservative passes didn’t produce much, and he had 9 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions with just 1,140 yards.
Except for Weis, all of these coordinators have been long-time assistants who have a special talent, be it developing quarterbacks or recruiting. McClendon, for example, was a former long-time Georgia assistant known for recruiting talent-rich metro Atlanta.
Based on their tenure alone, aside from production numbers, none of these assistants have made it into Year 3 with Muschamp. So it’s fair to wonder if Muschamp should re-evaluate even how he goes about the hiring process. After all, while it was about a month-long “interview process” for McClendon, he was the only staffer considered for the job, and all Muschamp had to go on for McClendon before his promotion to OC was his play-calling against Michigan in the Outback Bowl after the 2017 season.
South Carolina had 300 total yards, 13 first downs, but was just 2-for-14 on 3rd down and had just 61 rushing yards. Those numbers are very similar to the production the Gamecocks have delivered in recent weeks.
One of the classic moves of a coach on the hot seat is to change one or both coordinators. But given Muschamp’s track record, will that be enough?