Assistant coach John Butler takes job at Penn State

It's been confirmed that South Carolina assistant coach John Butler has accepted a job coaching defensive backs at Penn State, vacating the position of Special Teams/SPUR coach that that he occupied for just one season.

Initial reaction to Butler's departure has been mixed: while SPUR Antonio Allen had an All-SEC season under Butler's tutelage, the Gamecocks' special teams unit was among the worst in the country. Whether it was kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts, or punt returns, South Carolina was horrendous at all of them, ranking 81st, 118th, 106th, and 105th, respectively.

It's difficult to gauge any assistant coach's impact on his area of focus in just one season, and that is especially true in the case of John Butler, who was working with the greatest paucity of kicking talent that the Gamecocks have had since Steve Spurrier's arrival in 2005. But while Joey Scribner-Howard had his fair share of poorly kicked balls this season, the blame for Gamecocks' atrocious kick coverage does not fall squarely on his shoulders. Saying that the 2011 South Carolina team was wanting for talent would be a reach, so we either did not have the right personnel on the field for special teams plays or the players that were on the field for special teams plays were not well-coached or some combination thereof.

Year STE Rank Coach
2011 112 John Butler
2010 75 Shane Beamer
2009 94 Shane Beamer
2008 51 Ray Rychleski
2007 54 Fred Chatham & Beamer
2006 24 Fred Chatham
2005 45 Fred Chatham

Somewhat interestingly, the man who coached South Carolina's second-best special teams unit under Spurrier - and who may have contributed to its 2011 woes by chasing off Ryan Doerr - is available for hire after being released from the job that he held for three years with the Indianapolis Colts.

EDIT: I certainly didn't mean to come off as overly negative toward John Butler in this piece. I thought I did the best I could to make it clear that it was difficult to get a read on his impact on the team given the brevity of his tenure and the lack of kicking talent in 2011. From the interviews I saw, Butler seemed like a very cerebral guy, and I was willing to give him at least another year. It would have been interesting to see what his unit would have looked like with the benefit of having Nick St. Germain as his kickoff specialist in 2012.

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