Understand that I am making no claims of being a mind reader here, because I am not. But I do understand people and their body language, their tones of voice and the mindset they often convey through their facial expressions. With that disclaimer stated, I do believe Coach Holtz is tired. I've listened to his final Sunday teleconference of the 2003 season a dozen times by now. I even shared it with someone who I trust implicitly and we both agreed that Coach was completely baffled and totally exhausted by the rigors and subsequent outcome of this past season. He almost had a tone as if stumped, perplexed, unsure and somewhat ... beaten. He sounded as if he did not want to be here, or perhaps more likely that he had gotten himself into something that he was unprepared for or not expecting. That's understandable if he is, or was, thinking that way — especially on the day after the massacre.
Forget everything else you have read about what Coach Lou Holtz is going to have to change, to accomplish, in his efforts to 'fix' this football program between now and next season. The first thing he is going to have to change is his attitude about being the head coach at the University of South Carolina. He is going to have to recommit himself. Coach Holtz is going to have to get back to his roots and rededicate himself to excellence. He is going to have to find the mental and physical energy to put one last season together. He is going to have to concentrate on this and nothing else. He has the backing, he has the talent. What he must find is somewhere within himself, and it is the most important task facing him at the moment. Whether he realizes this — or not — is another question.
Word is that Coach plans to retire after next season. Who knows? I do not, not with all certainty at least. I suspect the talk to that extent may be true, but no one knows what the man is going to do for sure until he does it. But here is the problem with all of the speculation. It leaves the school, the program, in a bit of a pickle.
For instance, the coaching search continues. Replacements, qualified/skilled replacements, are being sought to fill empty slots on the staff. They must be sound recruiters, but more importantly at this stage they need to be sound developers, playcallers and teachers. Men who can instill confidence on a position level. The problem is, who will be willing to come, to leave what they have now and to gamble on a new job in a new city, knowing or perhaps wondering if their security will last for only one season regardless? In other words even if the Gamecocks were to turn it around next season and say ... win an SEC East Championship ... and Coach Holtz retires - what does that hold for his staff?
And what will the prospects have to say about that given the fact that we know other coaching staffs are already placing doubts in their heads about just such a scenario?
Not long ago it was a given that Skip Holtz was the heir apparent. But that is no more. It would take a huge turnaround over the course of one season, not only in wins and losses but in perceptions, for that to happen. It is a long shot as things stand at the moment.
So, one year. One year is what we have and it begins now.
Consider this. Brad Scott's final two classes were his best. Think about that for a moment because if you will remember they both followed very disappointing seasons. Recruiting is an inexact science. You just cannot tell how one class is going to turn out compared to another. Each has its own dynamic, its own hidden surprises.
We headed into this recruiting season knowing full well not to expect another class as highly ranked as last. Last season was loaded with highly ranked skill personnel, and those are the ones that garner you lofty class rankings. Conversely this season's class will be loaded with linemen and linebackers. It will be the type of class that rarely receives a lot of accolades.
Expect this next class to be ranked, if we recover and are successful with our current efforts, somewhere in the thirties. The important goal will be to fill the gaps, to add to what we already have and to build upon the talent already in house.
The remaining coaches on the current staff have been pulling double duty since the conclusion of the regular season. They have been making calls, keeping in contact with recruits, expressing needs to potential future Gamecocks by letting them know how much they are needed and how close we are to having a complete and whole working unit. Something has been missing and perhaps that something, that someone, is out there just a signature away.
Based upon the feedback we've been getting since the Friday following Thanksgiving, there is still a lot of potential out there to be had for this next signing class. However for it to come together, this staff, and those yet to be hired, will have to work their hardest, to do their best coaching jobs ever, in order to salvage the second season.
The process begins in earnest by replacing those coaches who were recently dismissed. It is my understanding that a fairly short list of qualified candidates has already been compiled. The problem it seems is that several are contingient upon coaching changes and staff breakups that have yet to happen. In other words, there is going to be a delay in hiring, at least for some of the positions, until after the bowl season. There is some chance that certain staffs around the country may already know their fate. In those cases, should the triggers be pulled ahead of time, Coach Holtz is prepared to swoop in and make offers at the drop of a hat. Also, let it be known, that Mike McGee is involved in the process and will be involved with the final decisions. The bottom line is to expect the great majority of holes to be filled after the bowl season. That is unless one or two candidates are released from their current obligations, possibly through retirement in one or two instances (retirement of their current head coaches) prior to the end of the calendar year.
Now that the season is over, we will be keeping you updated with no-nonsense, unbiased recruiting news and hiring news on a regular basis. Coach Holtz has some selling to do. He has to convince potential coaches and prospects that the one year plan will work — and that their futures with the University of South Carolina go far beyond any potential of him leaving at the end of next season. In other words, as he stated during his final Sunday teleconference — it is more important that they hire and recruit people who want to come to USC for its virtues, than to attempt to sign people who are more focused on the people in charge.