Fixing the South Carolina Gamecocks: A Reply to Rixon Lane


This morning, Rixon Lane offered a plan on Gamecock Cereal for “How to Fix the Gamecock Football Program.” As I read the plan I found myself on a roller coaster of thoughts. One second I was shaking my head muttering “No, no, no.” The next, I was nodding my head in agreement. Then, I closed my screen, and I went about my day. As I went about my day, I couldn’t get this plan to fix the South Carolina Gamecocks football program out of my head. It just didn’t sit right. Thus, my response to each of Lane’s steps.

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1. Announce that this is Spurrier’s last season. Step one from Rixon Lane was to let everyone know immediately that this is Spurrier’s last season as the head coach at the University of South Carolina. His reasoning for this was so the Gamecocks will maybe play with a renewed purpose – to send Spurrier out on a high note.

Here is what Rixon failed to address. What enticement does the entire football staff have to continue recruiting at a high level (I mean most feel it’s already not at a high enough level)? How does the announcement keep the current commits we have in the fold? In most cases when a new coach is hired at a program, he wants to bring in his own staff. Most of the time, the old staff moves on to different programs.

So, how would announcing Spurrier’s retirement at the end of the season actually benefit the Gamecocks? If players need to use Spurrier retiring as a purpose to play better, then we’re in worse shape than I ever imagined.

2. Play for the future. Lane states that all the freshmen should start playing immediately and “treat the next ten games like bowl practice.”

My problem with this statement is that we are 1-2 not 1-7. So what if bowl games are not a guarantee? So what if winning the SEC East or playing for the SEC Championship is unlikely? We should not play freshmen just because we are 1-2. The staff should play them only if they think those players can give us a better chance to win. We have a game against Central Florida this weekend that could very well get us back to .500. Why give up now?

Who knows how the team will respond? What I do know is we have seen glimpses of the team being able to do things the right way and other times not so much. Maybe they will put it all together. Maybe they won’t. One thing is certain, however. You don’t throw in the towel after 3 games.

Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

3. Hire the right successor. Lane thinks we should go with an up and coming coach that has never held a head coaching position. The coach must be offensive minded and must be under 40.

I like it, but I disagree with it. I do think that Spurrier should already know if he’s sticking around or retiring by the end of the season. That discussion should have already taken place with Ray Tanner. If he is retiring, then I am only going to offer one quick solution to the head coaching role, and I’m sure you’re all going to agree (because that’s what everyone does on the internet).

I think we need a young coach just like Lane. Under 40? Well, not necessarily. I understand the appeal of having an offensive mind, but I stand behind the thought that defense wins championships.

I would hire Kirby Smart. Smart has served under Bobby Bowden, Mark Richt, and Nick Saban. He’s one of the best recruiters in the nation and understands the level of talent needed to be successful in the SEC. In 2009, he won the Broyles Award, which recognizes the best assistant coach in the nation. In 2012, he was named AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year. He’ll be 40 in December which would meet the criteria of “young coach.”

Here’s where I get a little crazy. I would love to see Smart bring back Chris Rumph to be the defensive coordinator. We know that Kirby will most likely oversee the defense so it will allow for Chris Rumph to get accustomed to the title. Also, he and Smart have already worked together, so Rumph will already know what Smart’s expectations are for the defense. Rumph is a Gamecock alum, who has continually been one of the best recruiters in the nation during stints with Clemson, Florida, and Alabama.

The last move the Gamecocks have to make is find a great offensive coordinator. Tee Martin certainly would be the guy I’d go after. He’s been a monster on the recruiting trail, has SEC ties from his Tennessee playing days and coaching at Kentucky, and the Gamecocks would be giving him a title boost and a raise. He’s currently a wide receivers coach and the passing game coordinator at the other USC.

4. Open up the checkbook for coordinators and assistants. I already touched on the coordinators I’d like to see at South Carolina, but I agree with Lane on this one. We can’t be cheap when we hire our next coaching staff. We have to “nail these hires.”

5. Win the in-state battles off the field. Lane states that the recruiting battles against Clemson must be won far more often.

I agree and disagree with this point. Yes, we must be able to land top in-state talent. I do think that recruiting and development has been an issue lately. I also recently wrote about how recruiting should be a bigger priority, in which I stated that the stat that concerns me most about recruiting is the fact that 4 out of the last 5 years we’ve been in the bottom half of the SEC in recruiting and this year isn’t looking any better (possibly worse). We must be concerned with getting into the top half of the SEC and less worried about what Clemson is doing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love watching us beat the orange out of Clemson on and off the field as much as anyone else, but we simply can’t be caught up with what they are doing. We have to figure out how to beat SEC teams, because even losing just 2 SEC games per season can leave you out of a great bowl game thanks to the politically correct nature of the NCAA for bowl game invitations.

6. Be patient. Lane is correct in this analysis. The team is already young and hiring a new staff will require the team to learn new schemes, adjust to new coaches, and learn new plays. Being patient is key for Gamecocks fans, and if the university will open up the checkbook, I see no reason why we can’t see more unprecedented success than ever before. We have some of the best facilities in the nation. We will have one of the best coaching staffs top to bottom in the nation. The buzz could be higher than ever. Just give the staff time to get their players in and develop them.

For now, however, the staff shouldn’t be expected to just throw in the towel and play the young guys because they’ve lost two games. There is still plenty left to play for with 9 games left, and obviously, all of this is contingent on whether or not this is Spurrier’s final season.

I want to thank Rixon Lane for writing his thoughts on how to fix the program. Although we may not see eye to eye, I always enjoy reading things that inspire me to think.

Next: Chip Kelly Headed to South Carolina Gamecocks in 2016?

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