Just a matter of time before coaching carousel takes Palmetto State spin

Top assistants at Clemson, South Carolina are attracive head coaching candidates

Football - Chad Morris & Brent Venables

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Chad Morris & Brent Venables

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.

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Comments » 13

tigerrob44 writes:

Sooner or later and probably sooner both SC and Clemson football staffs will be decimated by departures of top assistant coaches. Spurrier will not coach at USC into perpetuity and when he goes so does their success while on the other hand Clemson will continue with their success. That's just a fact of life folks.

TigerNE writes:

Sure, coaches moving on is inevitable. But I think this cycle started by Texas will leave Clemson untouched. At the end of next season, there could be bigger threats as a number of high profile coaches in national programs are somewhat in their 'last chance' years. Florida and VT come to mind, but Neb isn't far behind either.

lhaselden writes:

When Spurrier retires... I expect one or more of the coaches on th current staff will be interviewed for the position of head coach, whether that is Elliot, Ward or Junior is the question.

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

The Texas job will definitely shake up the scene. I think they go after Jimbo Fisher.

brookesdad729 writes:

I personally don't see Morris leaving yet! I believe that he has to get some more quality wins under his belt before anyone of any prominence comes-a-courtin'. Lorenzo Ward at SC might just be on someone's short list however just because he has proven himself against some tough competition and he really brought his defense on as a unit from the beginning to the end of the year. SC had their "coming out" on defense against Mizzou and they got better after that. I believe that we might have to look out for Venables departure after next year because our defense is definitely getting better too. Still got some "kinks" to work out but it's getting better. I have nothing against Morris at all but I am realistic in my assessment of people and I do believe that he hasn't proven himself enough against quality teams. I don't believe that he has to necessarily win them all but getting blown out because all your're going is 3 and out isn't gonna cut it either. After so much of that the defense gets tired and will get scored on repeatedly I don't care how good they are. It's so ironic though I just watched the 2003 63-17 win over SC and they kept showing a clip of Steve Spurrier and his Washington Redskins and they also showed Dabo Swinney on the sidelines as our wide receivers coach. Who would have thought that those two would have been facing each other as head coaches some day in the Clemson-SC rivalry? Just a side note. Go Tigers! I'm all in! Let's get 'er done in the Orange Bowl!

gamecockg writes:

in response to tigerrob44:

Sooner or later and probably sooner both SC and Clemson football staffs will be decimated by departures of top assistant coaches. Spurrier will not coach at USC into perpetuity and when he goes so does their success while on the other hand Clemson will continue with their success. That's just a fact of life folks.

That's just a fact of life)I guess if you believe that the last 5 years want hurt so bad.If this was Coach Spurrier Last year I think Coach Dantonio (mich st) would be the #1 target

33dtb writes:

Someone once observed that Columbia has the state capital, USC, and half the lawyers in the state....
and every lawyer down there thinks he's a football coach.

Spurrier was their first coach to have the stature and lack of NEED of a job to rise above the politics.......and it took him, what, 6 or 10 seasons to get them above .500.....??

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to 33dtb:

Someone once observed that Columbia has the state capital, USC, and half the lawyers in the state....
and every lawyer down there thinks he's a football coach.

Spurrier was their first coach to have the stature and lack of NEED of a job to rise above the politics.......and it took him, what, 6 or 10 seasons to get them above .500.....??

I'm not sure about all the lawyers being football coaches and such. However, I do know this, Spurrier is 6-3, including 5 in a row, against "The Puddytats," and I probably don't need to tell you his record against Blabbo Weenee. I understand why CU would like to see him retire.

tigerrob44 writes:

Since it’s bowl season this is a fact some folks already know but some may not. USC has PLAYED in 19 bowl games in their entire football history. On the other hand, Clemson has WON 17 bowl games since 1939. And USC has won 6 of their unimpressive number of bowl game appearances and lost 13. They got very, very lucky beat us this year and last year they were just very lucky. We were and are a much better team this year than they are and historically, there is no comparison to the difference in the programs. My point is this: We will be fine no matter who is an assistant coach comparatively speaking to USC.

33dtb writes:

in response to TheTruth46:

I'm not sure about all the lawyers being football coaches and such. However, I do know this, Spurrier is 6-3, including 5 in a row, against "The Puddytats," and I probably don't need to tell you his record against Blabbo Weenee. I understand why CU would like to see him retire.

".and it took him, what, 6 or 10 seasons to get them above .500.....??"

lifetime.....history of the program....

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to 33dtb:

".and it took him, what, 6 or 10 seasons to get them above .500.....??"

lifetime.....history of the program....

Why is it many of your fanbase enjoy living in the past? I concur with the past, but, that's over and done. Let's talk about what has happened in the last 9-10 years or so. The situation has changed and USC has been the better team and program during this time, totally owning the current coaching staff.

BlueRidgeBengal writes:

Hey Trollth46, why is it that you feel the need to troll so much? my guess is you're Orange with envy. The CU life is just better from gameday to graduation and you know it.i would tell you to act like you've been there before but we both know you havent. So enjoy your little run. Yes your program is good and at its pinnacle but yet you're still obsessed with us.

TheTruth46 writes:

in response to BlueRidgeBengal:

Hey Trollth46, why is it that you feel the need to troll so much? my guess is you're Orange with envy. The CU life is just better from gameday to graduation and you know it.i would tell you to act like you've been there before but we both know you havent. So enjoy your little run. Yes your program is good and at its pinnacle but yet you're still obsessed with us.

LOL...too funny. By the way, you bit, didn't you? No obsession here, just total domination. I suppose the strain of recent history is more than you can bear. I now go in peace, temporarily, as I refuse to enter a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent such as you. Have a wonderful New Year.

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