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South Carolina’s Kurt Roper could be in play for Rice opening

The coaching carousel might come for the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator.

Nov 18, 2017; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks students wave towels in support of their team against the Wofford Terriers in the first half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching search craziness continues, and the South Carolina Gamecocks could find themselves involved.

On Monday, Rice fired head coach David Bailiff after the Owls capped a gradual downward spiral with a 1-11 record this season. Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman reports that Gamecocks offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, a Rice alum, could be in the mix for the position.

Roper, in his second year with South Carolina, has been by far the most embattled coach on staff. Many observers — myself included — were surprised when Will Muschamp brought him back for another round after the pair failed at Florida, especially since Muschamp’s lack of a functional offense was his Achilles heel. With the Gamecocks this season, Roper directed his unit to a 107th finish in total offense (5.49 yards per play, 340.2 yards per game), and South Carolina ranked 79th in passing offense (212.9 ypg) and 107th in rushing offense (127.3 ypg). There’s plenty of debate about the offense’s performance — quarterback Jake Bentley’s sophomore slump and other player execution issues didn’t help — but Roper remains a lightning rod for criticism. The numbers aren’t inspiring, and the Gamecocks are too often inconsistent and disjointed when they have the ball.

It remains to be seen what happens with Rice’s search. It’s early, and the inclusion of Roper’s name could be speculation or an educated guess more than anything else. I also don’t know enough about the other possible candidates — they could have much higher chances of genuine consideration for the job. But after the Gamecocks were spared having to dismiss under-performing offensive line coach Shawn Elliott when Georgia State plucked him away last season, it’d be interesting if a similar circumstance occurred with Roper.