Josh Kendall

Will Muschamp is gambling with McClendon hire, whether he thinks so or not

There’s not much reason to think Bryan McClendon will be a good offensive coordinator for South Carolina’s football team.

There’s also no reason to think he won’t be.

The fact is, there’s just not much to McClendon’s resume. He’s been a collegiate assistant for nine years, and he’s called the plays for one game, the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks won the game 26-19 behind 23 second-half points. So that’s good. They also averaged 7.3 yards on their first 11 possessions. So that’s bad. All of that happened against one of the best, and most schematically challenging defenses, in the country.

As far as data to put into a decision, it’s not a lot, but that doesn’t seem to bother South Carolina coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp is 46, going on 70 in coaching years. He has little use for recruiting rankings, much less advanced statistics or “S&P+” (whatever the heck that is). Muschamp is a gut guy, and McClendon feels right to him.

“I don’t see this as a gamble,” he said Friday after handing the keys to the 34-year-old McClendon.

Muschamp is intelligent enough to know in his head that it is, but his instincts overrode that emotion. McClendon spent the past two years working under South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who Muschamp just fired for ineffectiveness. It might seem unusual for a coach to promote a position coach to coordinator after firing the guy he used to work for, but it feels right to Muschamp.

“In his two years here at South Carolina, he’s been outstanding,” Muschamp said of McClendon. “You see the rapport he has with our staff, with our players, how he positively affects everybody in our organization.”

That’s a phrase Muschamp uses a lot – “positively affects everybody in our organization.” He often says it in relation to quarterback Jake Bentley. It’s one of his highest forms of praise, the glue that he believes holds organizations together.

Muschamp talked a little Friday about the things McClendon did to prepare for and play Michigan. He talked a lot about what kind of person McClendon is.

“The adjustments, I thought, were outstanding for us to have a chance to win the game,” Muschamp said. “If your players don’t believe in what you’re doing, we don’t win that game. Our players believed in what we were doing. There it goes back to the intangible qualities that your coach can bring to the table for you.”

The “interim” label has worked out well for McClendon. After Mark Richt was fired at Georgia, McClendon served as the Bulldogs’ head coach for the TaxSlayer Bowl in 2016, a 24-17 Georgia win against Penn State.

“There’s a reason Georgia named him interim head coach and he won the bowl game – because the kids believed in his leadership abilities,” Muschamp said.

McClendon, in turn, speaks Muschamp’s language.

“It’s all just a buy-in to what we have going on at South Carolina as a team,” he said. “Coach Muschamp talks about effort, toughness and discipline. On offense, we want to lead the country in effort and toughness and discipline. I think it all goes throughout the whole team aspect.”

That feels right to Muschamp.

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