Originally created 12/17/05

Spurrier hires two assistants



COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier filled two openings on his staff Friday, but he may have another vacancy before too long.

Spurrier hired longtime Duke assistant Fred Chatham as tight ends coach and promoted graduate assistant Robert Gillespie to running backs coach. Spurrier also said co-defensive coordinator John Thompson was on a leave of absence and would not be with South Carolina (7-4) for its Independence Bowl matchup with Missouri on Dec. 30.

"He's still officially listed as one of our coaches," Spurrier said. "We're not looking for a replacement right now."

Thompson, the former East Carolina coach, was among the first staffers hired after Spurrier took the South Carolina job last year. Thompson shared the coordinator's title with Tyrone Nix, but it was Thompson who called defensive signals for the first several games.

As the Gamecocks' defense lagged, Spurrier turned defensive play calling over to Nix. South Carolina won five straight, including landmark wins over Tennessee and Florida, after the move was made. Nix was recently promoted to assistant head coach.

Spurrier didn't discuss details of Thompson's time away. "We'll see where it leads into January and go from there," Spurrier said.

Thompson also coached inside linebackers, a task that will go to outside linebackers coach Ron Cooper.

The Gamecocks open bowl practice on Saturday.

Chatham spent 17 seasons at Duke, surviving four coaching changes. Spurrier, then Duke coach, brought Chatham to the Blue Devils in 1989 in time for the team's last Atlantic Coast Conference title. Since then, Duke has made only one bowl appearance (1994) and endured three 0-11 seasons.