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Sources: Gamecocks search drawing near close

South Carolina, the first Southeastern Conference program this season to make a coaching change when it fired Will Muschamp last month, has both zeroed in on its finalists and a targeted date to wrap up its coaching search sources tell FootballScoop.

The Gamecocks, despite Muschamp being owed approximately $13 million following his dismissal, have cast a wide net that has included multiple sitting head coaches, current and former NFL coaches, young, up-and-coming coaches and, according to multiple sources, at least one believed mystery candidate.

With athletics director Ray Tanner and Bob Caslen the point men, plus contracting with Ventura Partners as the school's first to assist the search, multiple sources on Thursday told FootballScoop that the Gamecocks have targeted Sunday to conclude their search.

“That's their goal, although if they can get a sitting head coach, they might wait,” said one source with knowledge of the search.

Added another, “I just know they want to announce it on Sunday, if possible.”

The Gamecocks at least talked to current Houston Texans assistant Chris Rumph, a USC alum and former Gamecocks assistant coach with deep SEC ties, and also have been linked to conversations with former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. USC also spoke with Army coach Jeff Monken, whose strong ties with Caslen and track record helped Monken with some early traction.

But the search largely has focused on Louisiana coach Billy Napier, among the very first people the Gamecocks brass spoke to after Muschamp was fired, and Oklahoma associate head coach Shane Beamer, a former Gamecocks assistant and recruiting coordinator, as well as the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer.

"There's multiple head coaches still in the mix," per a source.

Though Beamer, always a strong candidate, has emerged as the potential leader for the position, Napier has remained involved and was asked for follow-up talks with the Gamecocks. A Cookeville, Tennessee, native, Napier had a five-year run at Clemson that included time as the offensive coordinator and also logged five years on Nick Saban's Alabama staff.

Coastal Carolina's Jamey Chadwell also has been linked to the vacancy amidst Chadwell guiding the Chanticleers along a season of never-before-seen success for the Conway, South Carolina, program. The Chanticleers are undefeated and ranked No. 18 in the latest College Football Playoffs rankings; they host similarly undefeated and 13th-ranked BYU on Saturday.

Both Louisville coach Scott Satterfield and West Virginia coach Neal Brown also have been mentioned in connection to the South Carolina vacancy – to the point that both coaches publicly addressed the chatter.

Sources indicated the Gamecocks have been as persistent and thorough as possible as they have identified candidates and gauged interest for either initial or follow-up interviews.

One thing that has perhaps aided Beamer, per sources with knowledge of the process, has been the projected staff that Beamer has pitched to USC. It's unclear if Beamer could perhaps entice Rumph to return to his alma mater as a potential defensive coordinator and also tab Garrett Riley as his offensive coordinator, as one source in Columbia, S.C., indicated to FootballScoop. Industry sources have shared the idea of long-time Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster potentially having a role on a Beamer led staff.

Both Beamer and Napier are deeply connected and respected in the coaching community. There is no doubt each would be able to assemble an impressive staff.

With the early signing period beginning December 16th, the Gamecocks want this hire on board with enough time to make a positive difference for this signing class.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.