Sorry, Georgia State fans, but Shawn Elliott was not the best choice to lead the Panther program.
That’s not to say that Elliott isn’t a great coach. He is. In fact, Elliott is one of the top offensive line coaches in college football, having developed several top-quality units at both Appalachian State and South Carolina during his 20-year career. Considering that he coached under two of the best in the business in Jerry Moore and Steve Spurrier, there’s little doubt that he will be a successful head coach one day.
With that said, he doesn’t seem like the best fit for Georgia State right now. The Panthers needed to hire someone with previous head coaching experience. In addition, this coach would have a successful track record of building a program the right way. Remember, Charlie Cobb said he wanted someone that believed that he could mold Georgia State into a “successful, competitive” program.
Unfortunately, Elliott isn’t either of these things (yet). Sure, he does have head coaching experience, as he led South Carolina for the final six games of the 2015 campaign after Steve Spurrier stepped down. However, the Gamecocks went just 1-5 under his leadership, including an embarrassing 23-22 loss to The Citadel within the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium. And, since USC didn’t keep him as the head coach, there’s no way to know if he could have molded the program into a consistent winner.
Given that Elliott is still a bit of an unknown at this point, I think Georgia State should have pursued Ruffin McNeill. He did an outstanding job at East Carolina, inheriting a 3-9 squad and leading it to a bowl game in his first season. Three years later, he guided the Pirates to their first 10-win season since 1991.
It’s also worth noting that East Carolina finished in the top 20 nationally in passing yards in four of McNeill’s first five seasons. That’s the sort of offense that would help with recruiting, which is something the program really needs right now.
Will Elliott turn things around at Georgia State?
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he does. Yes, he wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he did beat out a number of qualified coaches for the job, which is no small feat. In addition, he’s been a key part of several successful teams in the past, including Appalachian State’s three-peat (2005-2007) and South Carolina’s three straight 11-win seasons (2011-13).
Only time will tell if he has this same type of success at Georgia State.