Shawn Elliott was handed the program.
He didn’t hesitate.
The son of a Camden state trooper who would bring his son to South Carolina games, Elliott gratefully thanked Steve Spurrier for hiring him six years ago, and for his tenure with the Gamecocks. Then he turned to the crowd and made it clear that it was a new day – USC will forever cherish what Spurrier turned it into.
But it’s past time to get that back after a rough start to the season.
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“We’re moving forward,” Elliott said. “We’ve got one goal in mind – when we walked in this morning, I said to our staff, I said, ‘Our goal is to win this week. Win today, win tomorrow, win the next day and beat Vanderbilt.’”
Elliott had no time to reflect what he’s taking over. There is a game on Saturday and he knows preparing for that (the Gamecocks’ feeble offense will have to take on one of the top defenses in the country) and getting his players under control is the top priority. While players seem to be OK at present, they have to realize that the man they signed to play for is gone – and while Elliott is no stranger, what’s going to change?
He at least had a strong endorsement before the move was made. Captains Skai Moore, Isaiah Johnson, Mike Matulis and Pharoh Cooper met with Ray Tanner late Monday and agreed that Elliott was the guy. “He very quickly and passionately accepted, and we’re excited about all the characteristics and the integrity that he brings to this program and he has for a number of years,” Tanner said.
Now to move forward with his stamp. Elliott grew up a Gamecock fan, played his last high-school game at Williams-Brice Stadium and lobbied for the job after a stellar run as an assistant on Appalachian State’s national championship teams. On Saturday, he’ll lead a team – his team – into Williams-Brice with a mission.
“Our football team understands that winning makes them feel pretty good, they do,” Elliott said. “And they want to win badly.”
Elliott’s famous intensity – he charges into his players during every pre-game warmup, looking like a crazy man as he pinballs among them – may light a fire under the Gamecocks, but the talent of the football team doesn’t change. Elliott has been in charge of the running game, which has not been effective this year, and his offensive line hasn’t performed to its ability.
Perhaps a tighter scheme may help. G.A. Mangus moves to offensive coordinator and primary play-caller while Travelle Wharton will handle day-to-day coaching of the offensive line.
Elliott will no doubt bring passion, but knows he’s facing a stiff challenge. Tanner and Spurrier mentioned that they’d love for Elliott to be given a shot at permanent head coach (and it is odd that the announcement was seven years to the day that another interim head coach, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, took over) and Elliott said he would love to be at USC for years to come.
If he finds four wins over the final six and gets the Gamecocks to a bowl game, consideration for that role would grow.
“I’m thrilled to death to lead the University of South Carolina, whether it’s one game, six games,” he said. “I think this team will rally behind it.”
Elliott already has one plus in his column. Four-star lineman Darius Whitfield committed to USC on Tuesday morning. It was announced right around when Elliott took the stage.
That has to be a record for the quickest commitment of any coaching tenure.