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How the South Carolina opening impacts the Georgia football program
On Sunday night, South Carolina made a change at head coach as it parted ways with Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks had gotten off to a 2-5 start this year and the wheels had come off on the defensive side of the ball as they had given up 159 points in the last three games.
The decision to move on from Muschamp has a number of ripples across the college football landscape. A new coaching staff will eventually be brought in and that affects a variety of programs across the country.
But the opening of an annual opponent, and one Georgia has routinely recruited against in recent seasons, figures to have a significant impact on the program. With Muschamp no longer at South Carolina and the Gamecocks still on Georgia’s 2020 schedule, the move will already impact Georgia this season.
The 2020 game
The game against South Carolina was set to be a revenge game for the Bulldogs in 2020, given the 20-17 loss in Athens last season. The win for Muschamp had to be sweet, given he is a Georgia alum and his friendship with Kirby Smart.
Smart was asked about Muschamp on Monday and the decision for South Carolina to part ways with him.
“It’s a part of our business. They both know that and understand that,” Smart said. “I respect both of them (Will Muschamp and Mike Bobo) as coaches and as friends. They know as well as I do that when you get into this profession, that’s a possibility that this happens.”
Before the Bulldogs and Gamecocks meet, they both have opponents this weekend. South Carolina takes on Missouri while Georgia is set to host Mississippi State. Smart added that he’s really only focused on Mississippi State at this point, not wanting to look ahead.
But the game against South Carolina figures to somehow be even juicer now that Muschamp is out. And that’s because Bobo is the interim head coach for South Carolina.
Georgia fans know Bobo very well. He played quarterback at the school and then went on to serve as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs under Mark Richt.
Bobo was an easy target for criticism but by the end of his time in Athens, he had become one of the best play-callers in the country. His 2014 offense led the SEC in scoring at 41.3 points per game and he was then hired to be the head coach at Colorado State.
After a 28-35 record over five seasons at Colorado State, Bobo came back to the SEC to work as South Carolina’s offensive coordinator. The prior head coaching experience undoubtedly made him the top candidate for the interim job. The Gamecocks have games against Missouri, Georgia and Kentucky remaining on the schedule.
Bobo was introduced as the team’s interim head coach on Monday and a press conference followed afterward.
“I think my biggest job is morale, getting these guys ready to play, play for each other and play for South Carolina,” Bobo said. “I’ll probably be more hands on with morale, talking to kids today and talking to them one-on-one about where their head is at and making sure we’re emotionally ready to go for this game.
“Our job as coaches and teachers is to show them the way of how you go about your business and work when things aren’t ideal. We’re not in an ideal time, we’re not in an ideal situation, but we still have a job to do.”
Like Muschamp, Smart is friends with Bobo. The game figures to be one of the more interesting iterations of this rivalry in recent seasons.
Especially given the possible motivation Bobo might have to show what he can do as the acting head coach at South Carolina. The school’s athletic director Ray Tanner said on Monday that the next head coach of the program will be offensive-minded.
“It’s important we maybe get an offensive-oriented type situation or maybe a fantastic coordinator to move the needle in that capacity,” Tanner said. “The other things we had, with the passion and dedication. You just want to get the right person. You want guys to have fun. It’s a heck of a lot more fun when you’re winning.”
So who fits that description? A couple of names have jumped out immediately. The most prominent being that of Hugh Freeze.
Freeze is now the head coach at Liberty, where he has led the Flames to an 8-0 record this season with wins over Syracuse and Virginia Tech. He’s got SEC head coaching experience dating back to his time at Ole Miss and has multiple wins over Nick Saban.
But Freeze also comes with a ton of baggage following his exit from Ole Miss. He’s also recently signed a contract extension with Liberty as well. Would he so quickly leap back to the first big-time job offer he could get?
Freeze was asked about the opening on Monday.
“I’ve been honest with them and our administration here in saying that it would take something really, really special for me to even consider leaving here — and I mean that,” Freeze said. “I have no idea if anybody even would want to talk to me, and that’s OK, I’m at peace with that. So I’m happy right where I’m at and at total peace.”
If South Carolina can’t land Freeze, some of the other names that have come up include Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
There is also a name with some ties to Georgia that has been floated and that is Shane Beamer. He is the son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer but has an impressive coaching resume of his own. In addition to working as the tight ends coach under Smart at Georgia and Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, he also worked at South Carolina as a defensive assistant under Steve Spurrier from 2007-10.
His past time at the school and ties to Spurrier could make him an interesting hire ala Arkansas bringing back Sam Pittman. Whoever South Carolina ends up hiring they will have a big challenge on their hands.
In addition to playing Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Clemson annually the Gamecocks as of now have a commitment from 2022 5-star quarterback Gunner Stockton. And keeping him committed will go a long way in getting off to a successful start.
Much like Bobo, in-tune Georgia fans know who Stockton is. He’s the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the country for the 2022 cycle and the No. 27 overall player in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Stockton out-dueled Georgia’s 2021 quarterback Brock Vandagriff earlier this year, displaying his arm and legs in the victory. And the Bulldogs finished as the runner-up for Stockton when he committed to the Gamecocks earlier this year.
Stockton’s recruitment will obviously one of the more interesting follows in the weeks and months to come. If Georgia tries and successfully flips him, what will that say about the staff’s belief in Vandagriff? And if Stockton remains committed to South Carolina, what will that mean for the future of the South Carolina program?
Either way, it should be fascinating to watch this recruiting battle play out once again over the coming months.
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