College Sports

Spurrier speaks to S.C. native Johnson about coordinator job

Steve Spurrier could be looking at some homegrown talent to fill his vacant defensive coordinator post.

Mississippi State Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations Mike Nemeth confirmed Monday that Spurrier had asked for and received permission to speak with Bulldogs defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Johnson, a South Carolina native who played and coached at The Citadel, said he had been approached but did not say if he was offered a position at South Carolina, according to Nemeth.

"He addressed them in a very surfaced way after practice," Nemeth said. "He had been contacted by coach Spurrier and he had an interest in a personal standpoint. Both he and his wife are South Carolinians."

Johnson did not return calls seeking comment.

Nemeth said that there had been no offering or accepting of the Gamecocks' job, only that Spurrier had spoken with Johnson. The Bulldogs are preparing for their Dec. 29 Liberty Bowl matchup with UCF and Nemeth said head coach Sylvester Croom knew about Spurrier approaching Johnson but still planned to have Johnson around for the last game.

"(Local media) asked him, 'What would you do if he left?'" Nemeth said. "(Croom) said, 'I have plan A, B and C but I hope I never have to get to Plan A.'"

Spurrier said he was looking for a proven defensive coordinator after Tyrone Nix left USC last week for the defensive coordinator spot at Ole Miss. After approaching Virginia Tech's Bud Foster, who turned him down, Spurrier turned to Johnson.

A Winnsboro native whose wife, Caroline, is from Columbia, Johnson has several years of experience in the state. After completing his playing career at The Citadel in 1974, Johnson served as defensive ends coach at his alma mater (1975), head coach of Gaffney (1976-78) and Spartanburg (1979-81) high schools, linebackers coach at The Citadel (1982), defensive coordinator/outside linebackers coach at Clemson (1994-96) and head coach at The Citadel (2001-03).

He's also served at Gardner-Webb, Appalachian State, East Carolina, Southern Miss and Alabama, coordinating defense for ASU, USM, Clemson and the Crimson Tide.

Nemeth said the next step would be up to Johnson.

"He may be going there on a visit but he wouldn't say any more at this point," Nemeth said.

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