The South Carolina Gamecocks made it official on Friday, hiring interim offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon to the job full time.
McClendon, 34, was the Gamecocks’ wide receivers coach until the dismissal of former offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He was given an internal promotion to the post, and the Outback Bowl was openly referred to as his audition. After a come-from-behind 26-19 victory over Michigan, head coach Will Muschamp apparently saw all he needed to.
It’s no secret that Muschamp prioritizes recruiting, and prefers his assistants to bring that skill to the table. Without a doubt, McClendon fits the bill: At his previous stop with Georgia, he was the primary recruiter for players like Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. From a Gamecock perspective, he helped hang on to Bryan Edwards, and reeled in Shi Smith and soon-to-be-freshman Josh Vann.
However, this will be McClendon’s first time as an offensive coordinator. For fans who wanted Muschamp to pull in a bigger name or at least a more proven candidate, this move won’t sit very well. Admittedly, I’m nervous about it myself: It doesn’t seem like there was much of an effort made to look outside the program, and given that offense has been Muschamp’s Achilles heel throughout his career, it seems like an incredible gamble to give this job to an inexperienced coach. I also can’t help but be a little leery of internal promotions after the Lorenzo Ward fiasco (and you could throw Chad Holbrook in there as well). Muschamp obviously believes in McClendon, and wanted to reward one of his top assistants. Maybe the rumors swirling around McClendon and the Tennessee wide receivers position also played into this. I just hope this wasn’t an emotional decision made after the Michigan win, and I very much hope it all works out.
In related news, South Carolina also added quarterbacks coach Dan Werner to the staff, and it’s hard to argue this isn’t a solid hire. Werner, who has been working in Alabama’s army of analysts, was previously the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss. Under his tutelage, Chad Kelly accounted for a program-record 41 touchdowns, and the Rebels made a Sugar Bowl appearance with the help of their high-flying offense. Werner’s veteran presence could help McClendon make this transition, and perhaps he can also help Jake Bentley finally take the next step in his development.