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South Carolina coaching search: Why Shawn Elliott deserves a shot

The interim head coach deserves an opportunity to show if he is the long term answer.

Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images

As everyone now knows, Steve Spurrier has resigned - effective immediately - from his position of head coach at South Carolina. With one of the most notable coaches in the history of the program now gone, there has been numerous names floating around as to who the university will hire to fill the position. As of right now, though, long-time assistant Shawn Elliott has been promoted to serve as the interim coach. Although he is looked at as a short-term fix, Elliott deserves an opportunity to show if he has what it takes to become the Gamecocks' next head coach.


Elliott has been a part of the Gamecocks staff for the past six years. Originally hired in January of 2010, he served as the running game coordinator for two years under Spurrier before eventually being given the title of co-offensive coordinator in 2012.

Prior to his hiring, Carolina ranked last in the league in rushing for three straight years, however, in his first season the Gamecocks averaged 154.4 yards per game, which put them at eighth in the SEC. Elliott was also a part of Marcus Lattimore and Mike Davis's success due to his new blocking schemes and ability to develop four All-SEC offensive linemen.

The only other school that Elliott has coached at was his alma mater Appalachian State where he served on the staff since his graduation in 1996. In addition to coaching the offensive line he was a defensive assistant and coached 12 All-America recipients while being part of the Mountaineers three straight Division I-AA National Championships from 2005-07.

As you can see, Elliott has experience on both sides of the ball but has a specialty on offense, especially the line which is needed when you are going against physical SEC defensive fronts.

Other Schools That Have Hired From Within

Nowadays it has become commonplace for large football schools to hire even bigger names to fill their coaching vacancies. From Charlie Strong taking over at Texas to Jim Harbaugh going to the University of Michigan the big-name hire seems to be the only answer when in reality it isn't.

Recently, the University of Southern California was forced to fire their head coach Steve Sarkisian less than two years into his tenure. Although it was for non-football reasons this was their second straight big-time hire that didn't work out. Previously the school brought Lane Kiffin in and after a promising start, he fell very short of expectations leading to his departure.

The silver lining in all of this? When Kiffin was fired early in the 2013 season after starting 3-2 he was replaced with interim coach Ed Orgeron. When all hope seemed lost Orgeron got the team back on track and led them to a respectable 10-4 finish with a win over a good Fresno State team in the Las Vegas Bowl. Since the departure of Pete Carroll from Southern California, one of the only stable moments in the program occurred under an interim coach.

At Orgeron they have a tradition of promoting former assistants to fill the head coaching void. Beginning in 1995 they hired former offensive coordinator Mike Bellotti and he elevated the program to unseen heights in his 13 years including just missing out on playing for a National Championship. After Bellotti, the Ducks put Chip Kelly in charge -  and we all know how his years there went. When his tenure was complete, they gave the reins to Mark Helfrich and other than a slow start this season, he has enjoyed much of the same success, including but not limited to a College Football Playoff National Championship appearance and a Heisman Trophy winner.

What Elliott Needs To Do

If Elliott hopes to stick as the HBC then there are a few things that he will need to show in the remainder of the season.

First, Elliott must prove that he can be effective as a recruiter. When someone like Steve Spurrier leaves it's only expected that some recruits will decommit, but if Elliott can keep those to a minimum that would be a promising sign. Also, he already has one commit, from a four-star DT no less, so he's off to a pretty good start.

Next, there is still half a season left to be played. With games against Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, The Citadel, and Clemson remaining, Elliott will need to at least go .500 to prove that he is someone the players want to play for.

So before South Carolina goes running off trying to find the next big thing in college coaching, they may want to consider the people they already have.