The Steve Spurrier chapter at South Carolina has drawn to a close.
South Carolina joins Illinois, Maryland and USC as major college football programs in need of a new head coaches heading into the 2016 season.
Replacing the Head Ball Coach will not be an easy task. Speculation will certainly begin early and likely pick up after the football season, when the coaching carousel begins its yearly spin.
Here are five candidates that could replace Spurrier as South Carolina’s next football coach.
1. Mark Dantonio
A South Carolina alum, Dantonio played defensive back for Jim Carlen’s Gamecocks from 1976-78. Much of Dantonio’s coaching experience has come in the Big Ten, where twice he has been named the conference’s Coach of the Year.
Dantonio has spent nearly a decade in East Lansing, Mich. as Michigan State’s head coach. While there’s a certain degree of comfortability there, Dantonio has already turned the Spartans into a national power.
Dantonio could take on an even greater challenge and compete in the SEC. In the SEC East, he’d have a chance to instantly make some noise. He’d have the opportunity to lure in better recruits to South Carolina and help out his alma mater, much like Jim Harbaugh is doing at Michigan.
2. Kirby Smart
Alabama’s defensive coordinator is among the most highly-respected assistant coaches in the nation. In 2012, Smart was named the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year.
After that season, Smart interviewed for the Auburn head coaching vacancy and was rumored to be in the mix for others, but instead opted to remain on the Alabama sidelines.
Three years later, Smart may have to decide whether he wants to outwait Nick Saban for the Alabama gig or take his talents elsewhere. At South Carolina, he has a chance to remain in the SEC, where he already has a high level of familiarity with opponents and can still bring in blue-chip recruits.
3. Gary Patterson
TCU’s head coach is already one of the most respected in the country and one of the highest paid. South Carolina may wind up being a long shot here unless Patterson wants to test his hand in the SEC.
Patterson’s Horned Frogs are 6-0 in 2015 and the coach boasts a 138-45 record with 14 seasons with TCU.
There will be no shortage of suitors for Patterson, including Southern California, which can afford to overpay to land him if the school believes he’s the coach that can turn the program around.
4. David Cutcliffe
The man who mentored both Eli and Peyton Manning, Cutcliffe has helped Duke become a football power the past three years.
Cutcliffe was rumored as a candidate to replace Lane Kiffin in Tennessee back in 2010, but he remains in Durham, N.C.
Two years later, Cutcliffe stayed the course and helped the Blue Devils become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, after which he was named ACC Coach of the Year. In 2013, Duke won its first-ever ACC Coastal Division title, played in the ACC Championship Game and notched its first 10-win season in the program’s 100-plus-year history.
Cutcliffe is a quarterback guru who has found success at a basketball school. He should be on South Carolina’s short list of candidates. Cutcliffe is one of the two best Duke football coaches of the past 50 years. The other one? The guy who just retired at South Carolina.
5. Shawn Elliott
There should be at least one in-house candidate to interview to be the next Gamecocks head coach. Elliott is expected to get the interim tag, and if he finds success down the stretch of the year, he should warrant consideration for the full-time gig.
Elliott, South Carolina’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, has spent six seasons in Columbia, S.C. Two years into his time on the coaching staff he was promoted to co-offensive coordinator.
Elliott’s impact was apparent. In 2013, the offense averaged 34.1 points per game and a school-record 452.3 yards per contest. Last year, he helped the Gamecocks offense average almost 33 points per game and register more than 440 yards of offense.
Already a valuable member of the South Carolina football staff, Elliott should deserve a crack at the head coaching position.
With Spurrier gone I don't think South Carolina will chase one of its alums as a replacement– Mark Dantonio– would it? Nah…
— Tim Staudt (@timstaudt10) October 13, 2015
Another reason for Spurrier to leave now: It gives Shawn Elliott either an audition for the full-time job or for another head coaching gig.
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 13, 2015