Head Coach Steve Spurrier has not yet divulged - and may never divulge - the thinking behind his decision yesterday to terminate Jeep Hunter as South Carolina's safeties coach. Whether it was his idea of that of Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward - whether it had to do with secondary experience or a perception that Coach Hunter was not pulling his weight on the recruiting front - what's done is done.
In the interest of promoting discussion, and to waste further time indoors on a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in the Palmetto State, here are a few possible candidates to replace Hunter - though by way of caveat I should say this list is entirely speculative, and I would be more likely to bet the mortgage that it will be someone from outside this list, than from within it.
Jeff Hafley - Rutgers University Secondary Coach. Hafley is a New Jersey native who joined Greg Schiano's staff for 2011 after having spent 2005-2010 at Pitt, the last three years coaching the defensive backs. He coached Darrelle Revis during Revis' last year for the Panthers, and coached up four more All Big East players. He is known as a very strong recruiter, and with his Mid-Atlantic experience he would be a great addition to GA Mangus in that area - or able to start working on Hunter's old South Florida recruiting territory. With Greg Schiano's departure to Tampa Bay, he would be available now without any big headaches.
Keith Burns - Ole Miss Secondary Coach. Burns is a 27 year coaching veteran who has been everywhere (Ole Miss, Kansas State, San Jose State, Tulsa, Arkansas, Southern Cal, Pacific and Rice). He's been a head coach (Tulsa), a D.C. (Southern Cal). His secondary units traditionally play really well, and it wouldn't be fair to hold the morbid Ole Miss showing last year against him. He is a Texas native who played college ball at Arkansas. Hugh Freeze did not retain him (new Rebels D.C. Dave Wommack will coach safeties), so he would be free on a moment's notice - assuming he didn't want to retire.
Jeff Popovich - Florida International. Popovich has been at FIU for four years (2008-2011). A native of Tuscon, he walked on at Miami and lettered all four years. He had a cup of coffee or two in the NFL, and then played in NFL Europe, before utlimately going back to Coral Gables as a graduate assistant. He was an Academic All American and All Big East Academic Teamer as well; thus he is clearly a very bright guy and definitely an up-and-coming coach. He would obviously know South Florida very, very well.
Tyrone Nix - Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator/LB. Don't snort just yet. True, Spurrier had to let Nix go as our D.C. in 2007 ... and, true, he is more of a linebacker coach ... but I always thought he was a good recruiter and a decent position coach. He's looking for work and might be willing to return to Columbia if the HBC would take him back.
Tim Hauck - Assistant Secondary Coach, Tennessee Titans. Before joining the Titans in 2008, Hauck coached the safeties at UCLA for one year, and four years before that at his Alma Mater, Montana - where he was an All-American Safety during his playing days. Hauck played 15 years in the NFL which is a huge plus. He may be totally locked up by new Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak. Or perhaps he might be looking for a change.
Steve Sisa - University of North Carolina Safeties Coach. Promoted to safeties coach by Everett Withers in 2011, Sisa was not retained by new coach Larry Fedora. A Virginia native, he played linebacker at the D-III level before getting into coaching at Southern Mississippi. He would be available and have contacts in North Carolina, which is always a fertile recruiting ground for USC. He's probably the greenest of the coaches on this list.
The best fit would probably have been Randy Shannon's former Secondary Coach, Wesley McGriff, but James Franklin hired him up to Vanderbilt last year, and made him the defensive unit recruiting coordinator, and I doubt we could pull him away.