FIRST, LET ME go on record as saying I believe Steve Spurrier will have his South Carolina football program in position to challenge for the SEC East championship, perhaps as early as the 2010 season.
In so doing, Spurrier will continue to coach USC through his extended contract, which runs through the 2013 season.
That said, let's suppose Spurrier's program continues to produce six- and seven-win seasons through 2012. If that is the case, Spurrier has said he will concede defeat and graciously move into retirement.
At that point, you have to wonder about the future of USC football. If back-to-back Hall of Fame coaches cannot produce the kind of winner its loyal fans so badly crave, who can?
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Some might suggest it would be time to disband football, or drop down a classification. If Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier cannot lift USC football out of the quagmire of mediocrity, why bother?
That line of thinking is a bit drastic, especially when there is a solution. Of course, it would take the same kind of guile and commitment made two years ago by Georgia Tech. Plain and simple, when all else fails, go after a coach whose team runs the triple-option.
Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson would not be available until 2016, when his current contract expires. But his quarterbacks/running backs coach, Brian Bohannon, could be had. Bohannon has followed Johnson from Georgia Southern to Navy to Georgia Tech, carrying with him all the knowledge necessary to teach college football's quirkiest offense.
So, too, would Ken Niumatalolo be available, unless some other BCS program is smart enough to snap him up before then. Niumatalolo, who coached six seasons under Johnson at Navy, has led the Midshipmen to 8-5 and 8-4 seasons and back-to-back bowl games.
Niumatalolo and Navy have defeated Notre Dame the past two seasons and took Rose Bowl-bound and Big Ten champion Ohio State to the wire this season before losing, 31-27.
Niumatalolo learned from the master, Johnson, and his Navy teams have perfected the art of running the football. The Midshipmen have run the ball 701 times this season and thrown a measly 89 passes. Navy is third nationally with an average of 280 yards rushing a game, behind - you guessed it - Georgia Tech's 307 yards per game. Nevada leads with 362 per game out of the triple-option attack.
Johnson won a couple of Division I-AA national championships at Georgia Southern before proving at Navy that the triple-option can be the great equalizer in college football.
Johnson's game is simple, so simple he keeps all the plays in his head on the sideline. He does not use a play sheet because there are not that many plays to remember. He does not need to know tendencies for down and distance because his offense runs virtually the same plays no matter the circumstance.
So, why does it work? It works because Johnson's teams execute. He negates any advantage an opponent might have in size or talent by teaching his team to be disciplined and to execute every play as designed. Missed assignments are not tolerated.
It is not as difficult to recruit against the big boys for Johnson and Georgia Tech. He might go head-to-head for players on defense, but generally can get his pick of option quarterbacks and those running backs that best fit his system.
Dabo Swinney's Clemson club saw Georgia Tech's triple-option attack two too many times this season. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 301 and 333 yards in the two meetings, the only times Clemson surrendered more than 223 yards on the ground in a game.
Swinney said the offense works for Johnson and Georgia Tech because of his commitment to it.
"I respect him because he does what he believes in, and if you're going to be successful that's what you have to do," Swinney said. "That's just the bottom line. You have to do what you're committed to, and what you believe in as a coach. If you don't, you're probably not going to last very long. It's not going to work.
"I give him a lot of credit because he's totally committed to his scheme. He's had success with it, and that's why he believes in it. In his mind, there's no reason for it not to be successful."
The proof is in Johnson's two seasons at Georgia Tech, where he has quickly quieted the legions who questioned whether the option offense could work in the ACC. In 2008, Georgia Tech went 9-4 with a win over Georgia. This season, the Yellow Jackets are ACC champions with an 11-2 record heading to the Orange Bowl.
When asked why more teams and programs do not commit to the triple option, Johnson shrugs and talks about how cyclical offenses are in college football. He points out how many teams now use the spread option introduced by Urban Meyer at Utah and Florida, and how many others are including option plays in their attacks.
Interestingly enough, the gunslinger himself, Spurrier, relied heavily on the quarterback read-option with Stephen Garcia in USC's victory over Clemson. The result was a ground game that produced 223 yards rushing and an offense that controlled the line of scrimmage.
Hmmm. Maybe Spurrier already has figured out that the option offense is the salvation for USC's program.