South Carolina’s 7 best coaching candidates to replace fired Will Muschamp

South Carolina parted ways with Will Muschamp on Sunday, the first Power 5 turn on the coaching carousel in 2020.

Muschamp had a 2-5 record this season, and the Gamecocks allowed 48 points or more in each of their last three losses. South Carolina was 28-30 overall under Muschamp, including a 17-22 record in conference play. 

PRESEASON SEC COACH RANKINGS: Muschamp in SN’s bottom five

The SEC job is sure to attract interest given the recruiting base and national profile, but Muschamp’s successor will be expected to lift the program back up. South Carolina has not won more than seven games in six of the last seven seasons.  

Who is on the the list of replacements? Here are seven candidates:  

South Carolina head coaching candidates

Billy Napier, Louisiana coach  

Napier is an excellent fit. He played quarterback at Furman and was an assistant at Clemson from 2006-10. His experience as an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama makes him even more intriguing, not to mention his track record at Louisiana (25-11) the past three seasons. This year, the Ragin’ Cajuns are 7-1 and ranked No. 24 in The Associated Press Top 25. He has to be considered the leading candidate for the job.

Hugh Freeze, Liberty coach

Yep, the Freeze watch is on again in the SEC. Freeze is 16-5 the past two seasons at Liberty and he has not lost his touch as a brilliant offensive mind. Freeze also had an excellent track record — on the field — at Ole Miss from 2012-16. Of course, 27 of his 39 victories were vacated by the NCAA. Freeze deserves a second chance in the SEC. Is the conference ready to provide that opportunity?

Brent Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator  

Would South Carolina dare go after their biggest rival’s longtime defensive coordinator? Venables has been with the Tigers since 2012, and the 49-year-old has yet to entertain taking on a head coaching job. The Tigers have won six in a row against the Gamecocks, but this is the kind of aggressive hire that might be worth taking a chance on given how many coaching searches Venables’ name might turn up in this offseason. The chances here are slim, but it would be the most entertaining hire on this list.  

Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina coach  

Chadwell has quickly worked his way up the coaching ladder through the Palmetto State. He started at North Greenville in Division II and Charleston Southern in the FCS, but the real breakthrough has come with Coastal Carolina this year. The Chanticleers are 7-0 in Chadwell’s third season, and they have done it with an offense that averages 37.9 points per game.  

Steve Sarkisian, Alabama offensive coordinator  

Sarkisian has head-coaching experience at two major programs in Washington and USC, and he compiled a 46-35 record. Sarkisian has revived his career with a stint as Alabama’s offensive coordinator that is not all that different from what Lane Kiffin did before him. Sarkisian could parlay that offensive creativity into a third head coaching job, and the expectations might not be quite as high as they were at his last two stops. It could work.  

Will Healy, Charlotte coach  

Healy is one of the under-the-radar candidates in this search. He’s 9-9 the last two seasons at Charlotte, but the 49ers are still new to the FBS stage. He knows the recruiting terrain within the Carolina borders, and at 35 he would be the most youthful hire. South Carolina might not ready to take this gamble, but he’s a name to watch if some of the other options take a pass.  

Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator  

Brady’s work with Joe Burrow at LSU produced one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time, but the move to the NFL after just one season in Baton Rouge suggests he might not be ready to come back to the college game. South Carolina might have to overpay to get Brady, who does not have FBS head-coaching experience. He’s still a hot name, however, so he’s worth a look.

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