College Sports

USC defensive coordinator Nix takes job at Ole Miss

South Carolina's looking for a new defensive coordinator after all.

A week after removing his name from consideration for the head coaching job at his alma mater, Southern Miss, USC defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix took a position at another Magnolia State school. Nix was hired Tuesday as Ole Miss' defensive coordinator, part of coach Houston Nutt's first staff.

"My family and I have had a wonderful time here in Columbia, South Carolina," Nix said in a statement. "I've had an opportunity to work for one of the best head coaches in the game and I've learned a lot of football from him."

"Tyrone Nix is one of the up-and-coming bright defensive coordinators in America," Nutt said in a statement. "He has a great name in this state, has recruited the state and knows the high school coaches."

Nix played at Southern Miss from 1990-93 and was an assistant coach from 1995-2004, the last four as the Golden Eagles' defensive coordinator. He interviewed for the head coaching job when Jeff Bower, the coach he'd played and served under, resigned in November after 17 years.

Nix withdrew his name from consideration after the interview but Nutt, who resigned from Arkansas but was hired by Ole Miss a day later as Ed Orgeron's replacement, stepped in.

"I love the fact that he has a deep connection with the state of Mississippi," Nutt said.

"Tyrone Nix is a good person, a wonderful family man and an outstanding football coach," USC coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement. "We wish him the very best at Ole Miss except when they play the Gamecocks."

Nix co-coordinated the defense with John Thompson in Spurrier's first year with the Gamecocks before taking over the unit during the last few games of 2005. He's been in charge of the defense for the past two seasons but recently came under fire.

The Gamecocks finished last in the SEC in rushing defense this year, giving up 209.3 yards per game, the only team in the league to give up more than 200 per game. The ineptitude was displayed prominently in a 48-36 loss to Arkansas, Nutt standing on the other sideline and watching Darren McFadden rush for an SEC record-tying 321 yards.

McFadden paced the attack as the Razorbacks ran for 542 yards, setting up the next week against Florida. The Gators rushed for 233 yards and passed for 304, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow accounting for seven touchdowns, and blasted the Gamecocks 51-31.

USC took its bye week and prepared for arch rival Clemson, but the Gamecocks were gashed for 443 yards in a 23-21 loss. Despite the yardage, USC was in position to win, but gave up a third-and-18 late in the fourth quarter that set up Mark Buchholz's game-winning field goal as time expired.

The Gamecocks' passing defense was exceptional, ranking fifth nationally with just 168.8 yards per game given up. But as many pointed out, there wasn't any need for opponents to throw since the run defense was so miserable.

Coincidentally, Nix is again replacing Thompson, who resigned from USC after Nix was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2005. Thompson held the same post under Orgeron at Ole Miss.

USC's current staff has one former defensive coordinator in assistant head coach/secondary coach Ron Cooper, who held the position at Mississippi State, UNLV and Murray State. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing has never been a coordinator but has coached defense at Appalachian State, Michigan State and North Carolina besides serving 12 years in Columbia.

"I can say to the Gamecocks that I will try my best to hire a proven, outstanding defensive coordinator," Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks will get an immediate chance to see Nix in his new post. USC begins a two-year series with Ole Miss next year, traveling to Oxford, Miss., on Oct. 4.