In college football, it’s not just about one school making one hire (even if that school is the size of Texas).
Once the Longhorns get around to filling the shoes left behind by Mack Brown, somebody will have to take the job at the school the next Texas coach leaves behind — and so on and so on.
These chain reactions greatly change the landscape of college football, and it’s already happened at Southern Cal, Washington and Boise State.
At what point, though, does a seismic shift hit the Palmetto State?
Clemson and South Carolina have had tremendous success the last few years. There’s never been an era where both programs have been this good and this healthy at the same time. Under Dabo Swinney, the Tigers have won at least 10 games the last three seasons. They claimed an ACC title two years ago and are about to play in their second BCS bowl in three years.
The Gamecocks have also reached double digits in wins the last three seasons, a first in the program’s history. A win in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 would secure Steve Spurrier’s squad of a trio of top-10 finishes.
Players like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney have raised the status and notoriety of their respective schools in a huge way.
However, the men working behind the scenes are huge reasons why Clemson and USC are gaining ground on the nation’s elite teams — and other schools are taking notice.
At some point, those prospectors will come get the Palmetto State’s top assistants.
Quite honestly, it’s surprising it hasn’t happened yet.
Chad Morris, Clemson’s offensive coordinator, is the highest paid assistant in the country at just over $1.3 million a year. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables also ranks in the top 10 nationally.
You shouldn’t necessarily equate salary with ability to coach, but these really are two of the best non-head coaches around. Morris has flirted with several openings in college football, including recent interest in Arkansas State, but he can afford to be quite picky.
Venables is doing a nice reclamation job with the Tiger defense. It might not take long for another school to decide he can do the same with an entire team.
At South Carolina, Lorenzo Ward is turning out to be one of the best SEC defensive coordinators in a league that prides itself on hiring the best of the best. It’s pretty surprising that you haven’t heard Ward mentioned for more openings. Sure, he’s only been a coordinator for two years, but he’s done a lot at USC. He kept a strong defensive tradition going after Ellis Johnson left at the end of the 2011 season, finishing 2012 with a top-3 SEC defense. This year, he had to rely on many of his own players and molded one of the youngest defenses in the country into another of the league’s best. It wasn’t easy, and it took half the season, but Ward has earned his pay this year.
There are other coaches in Columbia who have drawn interest. Shawn Elliott has turned down assistant gigs at even more prominent programs and head coaching jobs at smaller schools. Running backs coach Everette Sands has been linked to openings this month at The Citadel (his alma mater) and James Madison but is still on the Gamecock sideline.
It’s hard to know right now if the dominoes will fall in a manner that any of those assistants will leave this year.
Have another season of success and another top-10 rivalry meeting next November, and that should guarantee these exact staffs won’t do it again in 2015.