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South Carolina’s coaching search: How are we feeling?

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The rumors have been flying hot and heavy.

The rumor mill is a’churnin’, and with the Thanksgiving holiday moving into the rear view mirror, it’s logical to expect that things will really start heating up with the South Carolina Gamecocks’ coaching search. Since all we can do at this point is speculate and drive ourselves crazy, I figured I’d check in with GABA readers and see where y’all are at. Here’s my personal Panic Index out of the possible names we’ve seen floated so far:

RED ALERT

Jeff Monken, Army: Gamecock fans lit Twitter on fire earlier this week when news of Monken’s potential candidacy surfaced, and for good reason. Monken employs the triple option offense and has done so for pretty much the entirety of his career, and while some observers said he might change his scheme at a bigger program, that’s still neither a guarantee nor a comfort. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but shifting to the triple option would more or less be a concession that South Carolina has no hope of ever competing in the SEC, and the program’s ability to land SEC-caliber recruits would disappear almost overnight. In short, this hire would set the program back years and might even effectively “end” it. The current hope here is that Caslen is simply doing a friend a favor and helping him secure a raise from West Point with some polite chatter about big school interest.

Want No Part of This, Thanks

Hugh Freeze, Liberty: Perhaps no candidate is more controversial among the Gamecock faithful. Even among regional and national media, some claim he’s by far the best option available, while others insist he should continue to be a pariah from the major coaching ranks. Some USC fans want to back up a Brinks truck for Freeze and win at any cost, while others are leery of the NCAA destruction he’s left behind him (as well as the escort scandal in his personal life). For my money, I think his baggage is far too much of a risk for relatively little payoff: Yes, he (illegally) recruited boatloads of elite talent to Ole Miss, but the wins he got with those players were ultimately vacated — and going 39-25 overall with a 19-21 SEC mark simply doesn’t seem worth the hassle and/or stain to your reputation. I feel compelled to also point out that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey allegedly put the kibosh on the idea of Freeze becoming one of Alabama’s many analysts, so he seems to be a bit of a persona non grata in conference. This all may be moot, though, as current speculation is centering around the idea of Freeze waiting for an opportunity at Auburn or Tennessee, both of which may not open until 2021.

I Mean, Okay

Shane Beamer, Oklahoma: Despite his lack of a checkered past, Beamer gives Freeze a run for his money as the most controversial candidate on this list. As he was a former South Carolina assistant under Steve Spurrier, former players and other program insiders have been lobbying hard for him, arguing that he knows what it takes to instill a winning mindset at South Carolina and would be genuinely passionate about the job. The biggest knock on Beamer is his lack of head coaching experience, which is a trait allegedly paramount to athletic director Ray Tanner — Beamer’s been a career assistant/position coach, and it’s a little odd that he seemingly wasn’t given a look after his legendary father retired from Virginia Tech. Regardless, there’s a lot of smoke and momentum around his name, with Tanner rumored to be interviewing him in person today. There’s a school of thought that Beamer could be the Gamecocks’ version of Dabo Swinney — e.g. a successful head coach who’d never even been a coordinator before — but in my book, it’s not the best idea to bet the farm on repeating an anomalous experience the crew Upstate was fortunate enough to experience.

Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina: Also a guy Tanner has already interviewed, Chadwell is an attractive prospect: He’s got the Chants rolling, he’s very familiar with the state of South Carolina, and he’s a young, exciting offensive mind. Coastal isn’t his first head coaching job, either: his previous stints came at Charleston Southern and D2 North Greenville. However, he’s only a year into succeeding CCU coaching legend Joe Moglia (although he served as the Chants’ interim coach in 2017 when Moglia went on medical leave), so I’m not sure how much of what he’s done so far in Conway has been coasting off Moglia’s leftovers, so to speak. He’s someone who could inject some energy into Columbia, though, so although I’m not completely sold on him, it wouldn’t take too much for me to come around to the idea.

Scott Satterfield, Louisville: I don’t hate this idea, but I don’t really understand it, either. It feels like the kind of move that’s a couple years too late. Hiring Satterfield on the merits of his dominant tenure at Appalachian State? Sure! Hiring him after a couple up-and-down seasons at Louisville? I mean, I guess. I’m not trying to be unfair here, because he hasn’t really had a chance to show what he can do at the Power 5 level, but again — he hasn’t really had a chance to show what he can do at the Power 5 level, so it feels risky. For what it’s worth, Satterfield has also issued a statement about being happy at Louisville once the rumors started swirling, although of course that may not be worth as much as South Carolina could pay him. Like anyone else on this list, I could be convinced with the right argument.

Yes Please

Billy Napier, Louisiana: For my money, Napier is the candidate that makes the most sense and is the best fit; he seems like such a no-brainer that it almost makes you worry that South Carolina will definitely screw it up (although he’s also apparently been interviewed). Some fans may balk that Dabo once fired him as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, but that was a long time ago. He’s otherwise been successful everywhere he’s gone, with a couple stints at Alabama (first as an analyst, then as receivers coach) and offensive coordinator gigs at Colorado State and Arizona State. As a former Furman quarterback and S.C. State/Clemson staffer, I think Napier brings the best combination of success as a head coach and ties to South Carolina. In his three-year tenure with the Ragin’ Cajuns, he’s shattered a metric ton of program records, and checks all the boxes as a younger coach with an exciting style of play. Until further notice, he’s my personal favorite among the Gamecocks’ alleged options.

So what about y’all? Who are you crossing your fingers for as an early Christmas present?