Today, news that has been brewing for a while became official: Jon Hoke is the new defensive coordinator at South Carolina. He will be a co-coordinator with Lorenzo Ward, but the retaining the co-coordinator title is something of a nicety to Ward. Hoke will be the one calling the plays. To make room on the staff, former secondary coach Grady Brown is moving to a non-coaching role.
The bottom fell out of the Gamecock defense in 2014, and the offense couldn't score enough points to compensate. It was always going to be a rough year for the defense due to personnel losses, but things ended up worse than I think anyone anticipated.
Steve Spurrer's move to bring Hoke in shows a sense of urgency. His ill advised comments about not coaching for too much longer show that even he knows he'll have to hang it up sooner than later. Rebuilding the defense under Ward's watch may or may not work. The surer bet in Spurrier's mind is apparently to bring in a new guy to fix it now rather than potentially burn a year or two on seeing if Ward could turn it around.
What remains to be seen is how good of an idea that bringing Hoke in is after he's spent the past 13 years in the NFL. It could be that he's picked up some things on the pro level that will help him in the new task. That said, turning to Hoke, the defensive coordinator the last time Spurrier won an SEC title, feels a bit like when Spurrier stocked his Washington offense with former Florida players. He's going back to the well of the familiar.
This decision is the defining one for the rest of Spurrier's tenure as a head coach. If Hoke can't turn things around, then Spurrier's time in Columbia will end without that career crowning SEC title he wants so badly. If Hoke can get the defense back in good shape, then Spurrier will probably get another good chance within the next couple of years. Florida is and will be rebuilding for a few more years, Georgia likely made an awful offense coordinator hire this winter, Tennessee is still not in full working order, and the Gamecocks will have a talent advantage over Missouri according to the recruiting rankings.
The East will still be winnable, and once he's done that, anything can happen in one game. Spurrier would probably love nothing more than to coach another couple of years, get a big win in Atlanta, and then retire as the only coach who won two different schools' first-ever SEC titles. Landing Hoke out of this year's pool of defensive coordinator candidates will be a major part in determining if he'll get his storybook ending.