Steve Spurrier’s replacement at South Carolina could be coaching within the SEC right now. The Gamecocks have reportedly expressed interested in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as one of several candidates the university might be considering to hire as its next head coach, according to ESPN’s Travis Haney.
Smart has coordinated the Alabama defense since 2008. Many of Smart’s defenses have ranked among the best in college football and he has served under the tutelage of Nick Saban for nine seasons at Alabama. Smart has been linked to numerous head coaching jobs over the years, but has stood by Saban and the Crimson Tide.
Other candidates for the Gamecocks’ vacancy include Houston coach Tom Herman, Memphis coach Justin Fuente and possibly Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez as a dark horse, according to Haney.
Herman is one of the hottest coaching candidates in the country. He’s coached the Cougars to a 6-0 start in his first season as a head coach and his team was ranked 21st in the latest Associated Press poll. He served as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator from 2012-14 under Urban Meyer.
Memphis, with Fuente at the helm, has competed with Houston for supremacy in the American Athletic Conference this season. Fuente has turned the Tigers around rapidly. Memphis went from 4-8 during Fuente’s first season in 2012 to 10-3 a season ago. Memphis has gotten off to an undefeated start, and Fuente might be the most sought after candidate once the season wraps up.
Rodriguez would be the biggest name among this crop of coaches and would be a dark horse at this point. Rodriguez has done an admirable job rebuilding Arizona after being jettisoned from Michigan. The Wildcats have gone 26-14 in three seasons under Rodriguez and appeared in the Fiesta Bowl last season. Rodriguez became a candidate in Haney’s mind after he had discussions with agents and coaches.
The Gamecocks won’t be able to interview coaches until the end of the season, but the university might have a few candidates in mind already.