COMMENTARY

What is right move for USC with OC hire?

Posted 1/3/18

What to do, what to do, what to do.

Will Muschamp has quite a decision to make in the next few days. The South Carolina football head coach has to decide whether Bryan McClendon will become his permanent offensive coordinator or if he will bring …

This item is available in full to subscribers

COMMENTARY

What is right move for USC with OC hire?

Posted

What to do, what to do, what to do.

Will Muschamp has quite a decision to make in the next few days. The South Carolina football head coach has to decide whether Bryan McClendon will become his permanent offensive coordinator or if he will bring in someone else to run the offense since the Gamecocks' season is now over.

Now, it's not a career-altering decision for Muschamp, as some have made it out to be. His career as a head coach doesn't hinge on Muschamp nailing this hire, but if he were to put someone in place to finally give him an offense that comes close to matching the defenses he has had, Muschamp would likely be locked in for a long career as a head coach.

Based on the view of someone on the outside looking in, McClendon didn't help Muschamp one iota in the decision-making process in his "dress rehearsal" debut in USC's 26-19 victory over Michigan on Monday in the Outback Bowl.

McClendon called his first game as an OC after the man he shared the co-offensive coordinator title with and called players, Kurt Roper, was relieved of his duties following the end of the regular season. Frankly, Carolina's offense, production and the way it unfolded looked pretty much the same under McClendon on Monday as it had in the previous 25 games under Roper, whom Muschamp brought in when he was hired as head coach prior to the 2016 season.

For the first 40 or so minutes of the game, South Carolina's offense looked totally inept against the Wolverines' nationally-ranked defense. However, it did look as though McClendon made some adjustments at halftime, and it began to show up late in the third quarter. The inability to adjust was one of the many criticisms leveled against Roper.

After Michigan kicked a field goal to go up 19-3 with 5:42 left in the third quarter, the Gamecocks looked dead in the water. They had three first downs and 93 yards of total offense to that point. When USC absolutely had to have a touchdown though, it did just that, going 77 yards in six plays.

The drive included two short passes by quarterback Jake Bentley to running back Rico Dowdle in the flat that went for 19 and 11 yards, respectively. Those plays took advantage of the Wolverines' ultra-aggressive defense. The drive ended with Carolina running an option to the short side of the field with Bentley pitching to Dowdle for a 17-yard TD run. That was a play for which Michigan was likely unprepared.

The Wolverines began their run of five turnovers in six possessions on the next possession with South Carolina recovering a fumble at the Michigan 21-yard line. The Gamecocks wasted no time as Bentley connected with wide receiver Bryan Edwards for a touchdown on first down to cut the lead to 19-16.

USC followed up with another long drive, going 81 yards in six plays. Facing third down and 17 yards to go from the USC 12, Bentley hooked up with tight end Hayden Hurst for a 23-yard gain. After getting another first down at the Carolina 47, Bentley went up top to wide receiver Shi Smith, hitting him in stride for a 53-yard scoring pass to put South Carolina in the lead.

So, yes on McClendon or no? It depends on how you view Monday's performance and exactly what he means to the coaching staff. Even if the Gamecocks had been either stupendous or awful on offense, it is hard to make such a judgment based on one game, especially for someone calling his first game. The strong finish likely muddied the waters a bit.

One thing that is certain with McClendon though is that he can recruit, and it is amazing how top-of-the-line athletes can improve an OC's prowess at calling a game. With reports out that Tennessee may be willing to take McClendon on as an offensive coordinator, if he doesn't get the USC job it could easily leave the door open for him to bolt.

Taking a chance on a play caller and holding on to a recruiting firepower makes sense.