On Wednesday morning, the South Carolina Gamecocks moved on from embattled offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
Roper had been linked to the Rice head coaching vacancy, but lost out on the position earlier this week when the Owls decided to go with Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp had given lukewarm support to Roper in a recent interview, saying that he expected his assistant to be around for the bowl game because “that was the plan.” But the Gamecocks clearly wanted to part ways with Roper even after nothing materialized from Rice’s interest.
Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will call plays in South Carolina’s Outback Bowl matchup against Michigan.
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). The Gamecocks also finished 12th in the SEC in total offense, only the barest improvement over their 13th-place finish in 2016.
I have to admit I’m pleasantly surprised this move was made. Upon his hiring in 2015, Muschamp was adamant that he had learned from his stint at Florida, and insisted Roper would have extended his career there if they’d had more than one season together. But that hire worried me from Day 1, and Muschamp’s clear loyalty to Roper further complicated the picture. The book on Muschamp has been that he’s a defensive guru, but can’t put together a functional offense, so it frankly seemed incredible he was willing to bet another head coaching opportunity on Roper, whose biggest accomplishment to date was working under David Cutcliffe at Duke. The Gamecocks’ offense opened 2017 with a fair amount of preseason hype, given the amount of skill talent South Carolina returned, and it was arguably expected to be the strength of the team. But even with a couple key injuries to Deebo Samuel and Rico Dowdle, and some inconsistent quarterback play from Jake Bentley, the unit was just too inexcusably bad to avoid making a change.
So, the Gamecocks have hopped on the coaching carousel. Who’s on your wish list to call ball plays?