South Carolina's Loss to Citadel Shows Gamecocks Could Be in for Rough Future

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 21, 2015

South Carolina QB Perry Orth
South Carolina QB Perry OrthRichard Shiro/Associated Press

For 60 minutes inside Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday afternoon, South Carolina put on a show. 

A horror show.

The Gamecocks fell 23-22 to The Citadel out of the FCS, dropped to 3-8 on the season and made it abundantly clear to the college football world that the man who will permanently take over for former head coach Steve Spurrier—who retired in October—has a nearly impossible task.

Interim head coach Shawn Elliott was straightforward on what went wrong for the Gamecocks, according to David Cloninger of the State:

David Cloninger @DCPandC

Shawn Elliott: "They out-coached us, they out-classed us."

David Cloninger @DCPandC

Elliott: "Certainly disappointed in effort. It was a total disappointment. It's my responsibility ... I don't know if (focus) was all there"

Take nothing away from The Citadel. The Bulldogs are a solid FCS team out of the Southern Conference and have a lot going for them at that level.

But they simply man-handled the Gamecocks at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and that is not something that a new coach can fix overnight.

Not even if that coach is named "Nick Saban," "Urban Meyer" or "Vince Lombardi."

South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott
South Carolina interim head coach Shawn ElliottRainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

The new coach's first job is to get bigger and better players up front. If that means hitting the junior college ranks hard, working to flip committed players or convincing current players to bulk up and change positions, do it.

The Gamecocks' 2016 class currently has just one lineman on either side of the ball with four or more stars—defensive end Jordan Smith. What's more, he's one of only two commits who have that designation in the entire 15-player class.

That's before the recruiting attrition that is inevitable once the new staff is in place.

It's one thing to be shocked by a triple-option team, since, aside from Georgia Tech and the service academies, Power Five schools typically don't see much of that. But Carolina's offensive line got absolutely mauled, which was a big reason the Gamecocks managed just 72 rushing yards as a team.  

The only other 4-star player in the 2016 class is dual-threat quarterback Brandon McIlwain, and he's an absolutely critical piece of the puzzle, regardless of who takes over. 

South Carolina clearly has a quarterback problem. Perry Orth threw for 367 yards in the loss, but he aired it out all afternoon without the help of a running threat and benefited from a couple of long catch-and-runs from star wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.

Could McIlwain be the guy?

Maybe, but as SB Nation's recruiting page pointed out on Twitter, he's keeping his options open.

SB Nation Recruiting @SBNRecruiting

South Carolina class 👎RT @sportstalksc: #STRecruiting: USC QB commit Brandon McIlwain is taking an unofficial visit to Penn State today.

This comes on the heels of another one of South Carolina's highest-rated prospects—4-star wide receiver Bryan Edwards—decommitting earlier in November.

South Carolina has no skill players outside of Cooper—who's eligible for the draft after this season. It is severely lacking in the trenches, and it has no running back that it trusts in the future and no direction due to Spurrier's sudden resignation.

The future looks bleak for the Gamecocks, and whoever takes over in 2016 will have his work cut out for him. 

In the landscape of coaching vacancies this offseason, South Carolina is included in a pool of open jobs that includes Virginia Tech, Miami, Missouri, Maryland and potentially others. They all have positives and obvious negatives, and potential candidates will likely judge all of them based on feel and fit more than anything else.

The Gamecocks have a proud fanbase, good facilities and a down division going for them. But from a talent, recruiting-base and momentum perspective, it's hard to consider the program overly attractive.

South Carolina has to get this hire right and be patient because the eventual new head coach has an uphill climb to get back into contention.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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