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Two Carolina coaches hit the road

USC offensive line coach John Hunt watches a blocking drill during the Gamecocks practice in this August file photograph. Hunt has been fired after offensive problems plagued the team this season.
USC offensive line coach John Hunt watches a blocking drill during the Gamecocks practice in this August file photograph. Hunt has been fired after offensive problems plagued the team this season. The State file photograph

South Carolina lost two assistant coaches Sunday, although only one left by his own volition.

Steve Spurrier fired maligned offensive line coach John Hunt, who worked with Spurrier at three coaching stops but failed to produce lines at USC that could open running lanes or protect the Gamecocks’ quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, recruiting coordinator David Reaves resigned to join the staff of his brother-in-law, Lane Kiffin, who will be introduced officially as Tennessee’s new coach today. Reaves said he will coach the Volunteers’ quarterbacks.

With the departures, only two assistants remain from Spurrier’s first USC staff in 2005: his son, receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., and safeties coach Ron Cooper.

The 46-year-old Hunt has worked with Spurrier for the past decade, beginning at Florida and later with the Washington Redskins and USC.

But the Gamecocks have the SEC’s worst rushing offense for the second year in a row, and are next to last in the conference in sacks allowed for the second consecutive season.

“We appreciate the job John Hunt has done here at Carolina for the past four seasons,” Spurrier said in a release. “But we felt like we needed to make a change in that area. He’s a good person, and we wish him the best.”

Hunt received a one-year contract extension in April worth $175,000.

“I don’t agree with the decision, but I respect coach Spurrier’s decision,” Hunt said in the statement. “I appreciate the opportunity he gave me. I enjoyed my time in South Carolina and wish the Gamecocks the best in the future.”

Hunt, who has been the subject of heavy criticism from USC fans, joked several times that the criticism was nothing like he heard when he was with the Redskins. Attempts to reach Hunt and Spurrier were unsuccessful.

Reaves, 29, a Columbia native who played quarterback at Spring Valley, spent seven years at USC. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Lou Holtz and was retained by Spurrier, who worked with Reaves’ father at Florida.

Reaves interviewed with Kiffin two years ago after Kiffin was hired by Oakland but decided to stay at USC.

“This is a good place. I love Columbia. It’s my home. I spent seven years here,” Reaves said Sunday as he drove to Knoxville, where Kiffin will be introduced this afternoon.

“Just the opportunity to be with my family and coach the quarterbacks, I just couldn’t turn it down. Hopefully, one day I’ll have the opportunity to be back in Columbia coaching again.”

Reaves, who assisted Spurrier with the quarterbacks, helped USC land a consensus top-10 recruiting class in 2006 that was the highest rated in school history. The Gamecocks added a top-25 class last year and have commitments from about 20 players for the ‘09 class.

“I’ve seen a lot of change,” Reaves said of his time at USC. “But I really do think that (athletics director) Eric Hyman’s doing a phenomenal job. I think they have the right president in place. I think the university’s building a lot of great facilities. It’s on track to just keep getting better and better.”

“We appreciate the job David has done,” Spurrier said in a statement. “He had a wonderful opportunity presented to him and will be moving on.”

Spurrier did not address who would handle the two coaches’ responsibilities heading into the bowl game, although cornerbacks coach Shane Beamer is expected to take over as recruiting coordinator, a position he held at Mississippi State.

Spurrier could turn to former Gators quarterback Noah Brindise to fill one of the vacancies. Brindise, whose brother, Zac, is a walk-on for the Gamecocks, was the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach under Spurrier. Brindise is in private business in Gainesville, Fla., after stops at East Carolina and UNLV.

Also, a pair of South Carolina natives might be in the mix for the offensive line position. TCU’s Eddie Williamson, a former USC assistant who worked with Spurrier for three years when both were Duke assistants, and Vanderbilt’s Robbie Caldwell, who accepted an offer from Holtz before the 2004 season before changing his mind, could be candidates.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

Change is the only constant

The two staff departures announced Sunday increased to nine the number of changes on Steve Spurrier’s staff in his four years in Columbia:

Year Assistant Responsibility Time at USC Replacement
2008-09 John Hunt Offensive line four seasons TBD
2008-09 David Reaves QBs/recruiting* seven seasons TBD
2007-08 Brian VanGorder Defensive coordinator zero seasons Ellis Johnson
2007-08 Tyrone Nix Defensive coordinator three seasons Brian Van Gorder
2007-08 Fred Chatham Tight ends/special teams two seasons Ray Rychleski
2006-07 Dave Wommack Outside linebackers two seasons Shane Beamer
2005-06 Rock Stockstill Tight ends two seasons Fred Chatham
2005-06 Madre Hill Running backs one season Robert Gillespie
2005-06 John Thompson Defensive coordinator one season Brad Lawing**

*Shane Beamer will assume Reaves' recruiting coordinator responsibilities

**Tyrone Nix assumed Thompson’s responsibilties after the 2005 season; Lawing assumed Nix’s previous duties.

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