VanGorder excited about USC opportunity
VanGorder is probably best known for being the defensive coordinator at Georgia from 2001-2004. Since then, he has been a bit of a coaching vagabond, spending a year as the linebackers coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a year as the head coach at Georgia Southern, and then his current position as the linebackers coach for the Atlanta Falcons. VanGorder said during a teleconference Wednesday that he will honor his commitment to the Falcons for the rest of their season before he joins the Gamecocks. He also addressed the question of whether he is a coach who will stay committed to one job for the long haul.
"I hate that I have to answer that question, but I certainly think that it's a worthwhile question," he said. "My intentions are to be at South Carolina and to be there a long time. I've had a couple opportunities where I could have settled in and stayed a long time. Looking at my career there is maybe one decision that I regret [taking the job at Georgia Southern]. I tried to right that real quickly [by] coming back into the NFL. I'm 48 years old, I have five children, and certainly feel awful about having to move my wife and kids around. It's not what I intended to be doing. It just has happened that way."
Before he got the job, though, VanGorder had to convince the Head Ball Coach he was staying put. Toward that end, VanGorder requested and was given a three-year contract to show his commitment to USC. Spurrier declined to reveal the financial value of the contract until it is signed, but the deal is likely around $300,000 a year, the going rate for coordinators in the SEC.
"He convinced me that he and his family are ready to settle down a little bit," Spurrier said. "They're tired of moving. He's got a three year deal, and we're making a strong commitment to these guys that they're an important part of our football program."
Spurrier, who joked about his difficulty pronouncing the names of VanGorder and his other new hire, Ray Rychleski, talked about the qualifications VanGorder brings to the Gamecocks.
"He's a quality guy with a lot of experience," Spurrier said, "and I really think he's going to do a super job here. He's the kind of guy I was looking for: he's a linebackers coach, but yet he'll coach everything on defense. Hopefully we'll be a faster playing, more physical team, and a team that plays our assignments a lot better. When something's not working all that great, change is hopefully good. He's a good family man that's got five children. He's been in coaching a long time. He worked his way up from high school up through some small colleges and through the University of Georgia for four years and the NFL a couple years. In the NFL, you see it all, and figure out maybe this works and this doesn't and so forth."
Of course, the first question any football fan asks when a new coordinator is hired is, "What scheme does he run?" VanGorder does not run an exotic defense, sticking to a base 4-3 package. When describing his philosophy, he said that his scheme has less to do with his defense and more to do with the opposing offense.
"I come from the background of you look at an offense and determine those things on offense that a team does well, and then within your system you find way to stop that," said VanGorder. "I think I'm a guy from a scheme standpoint that usually carries enough scheme to handle all those different situations. I think the mark on most of my defenses is going to be that we play fast. I'm someone that believes in creating a scheme that allows guys to unwind and play fast. We're going to play aggressive. I expect great effort on every play. I'm an emotional coach and I like my defense to play with emotion."
It was well-publicized that VanGorder was not the first man Spurrier spoke to about the opening. Last week, Spurrier spoke to Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster about the position, before Foster decided to stay with the Hokies. Spurrier said that he never expected Foster to make a lateral move, even suggesting Foster should get the head coaching job at West Virginia, but he needed to do his due diligence.
"Bud had the guy call me," Spurrier explained. "That was a long shot. I followed up on it just to see what happened. There wasn't any reason to think it was going to happen. Probably his next move should be as a head coach."
Even though he was probably not the first choice of many Carolina fans, VanGorder said South Carolina was his first choice. He had opportunities at several different places, including going to Arkansas with Bobby Petrino, the man who hired him in Atlanta. Petrino was hired at Arkansas to replace Houston Nutt, who hired former defensive coordinatoro Tyrone Nix at Ole Miss. VanGorder was not interested in another big move, though.
"From the beginning I knew that if Coach offered me the job at South Carolina, that was the one that would work best for me and certainly for my family," he said. "I really look forward to coming to South Carolina. I'm fairly familiar with the situation there with the great fan base and the desire to have a championship program. I'm most excited to be able to work with Coach Spurrier."
Spurrier also talked about what led to Nix's departure. He praised Nix for his work at Carolina, but said both sides decided a change was for the best, and Nix was presented with an opportunity to return to his home state when he joined Nutt's staff.
"Our former coach did a super job here," said Spurrier. "Tyrone worked endlessly, a good guy, good coach. Sometimes if it's not working real well you've got to make some changes. He knew it wasn't working that well. I didn't want to let him go. He's a wonderful guy and really needed to just wait it out. Houston Nutt obviously thought enough about him to want to talk to him. Tyrone's got an excellent opportunity there at Ole Miss. That worked out beautifully that he got that job."
VanGorder will take over linebacker coaching duties from Nix and current assistant Shane Beamer. Beamer will likely take over coaching duties in the secondary alongside Ron Cooper. The plan is to split the responsibilities for the cornerbacks and safeties, although the final decision will not be made until VanGorder has a chance to meet with his assistants.
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