South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has expressed an interest in the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State but has not had any formal discussions with school officials, Johnson said Monday through a USC spokesman.
The 56-year-old Johnson was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator for four seasons under Sylvester Croom, who resigned on Nov. 29 after going 21-38 in five seasons.
Attempts to reach Johnson for comment were unsuccessful.
Johnson, a Winnsboro native who recently received a one-year contract extension, has the Gamecocks ranked fourth in the SEC and 11th nationally in total defense in his first year in Columbia.
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Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said he had spoken with Johnson about his interest in the Bulldogs, although the two have not discussed the situation in recent days.
“They’ve got to hire somebody here pretty soon. I would think he’d be a candidate,” Spurrier said. “I think he did mention a while back that he’s had some conversation with them. But not in the last two days has he mentioned it.”
Johnson’s contract includes a buyout that would require him to pay the university $1.05 million if he leaves for another assistant coaching position, but the buyout is waived if Johnson becomes a head coach.
Johnson had a 12-22 record in three seasons as the head coach at The Citadel before leaving to join Croom’s staff before the 2004 season.
A kinder, gentler coach. Gamecocks linebacker Eric Norwood had an interesting reaction when asked about Spurrier’s comments that he plans to be more encouraging and positive to his players.
“That’s cool with me. He can be however he wants to be,” Norwood said. “He can be the meanest guy in the world or the nicest guy. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all coaching.”
Quarterback Stephen Garcia said last week that one of the topics discussed at a players-only meeting was the concern that coaches were too harsh on players.
Gone, not forgotten. Offensive tackle Justin Sorensen said he exchanged phone numbers and plans to stay in touch with offensive line coach John Hunt, who was fired last week after four seasons at USC. Sorensen credited his streak of 31 consecutive starts at right tackle to his work with Hunt.
“I think he’s a great coach and I wish him the best for his future,” said Sorensen, a fifth-year senior from British Columbia. “I thanked him because, personally, he’s made me a lot better player than I probably should have been. He’s helped me over the years.”
On a mission. After dispiriting losses to Florida and Clemson, USC players said they are glad to have a chance to play again. The Gamecocks will face Iowa for the first time in the Outback.
“The last two games out, we left the game beaten. The (other) team came to the ballpark ready to play, and we weren’t,” middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. “That’s something we’re going to work on these next couple of weeks. Go down to Tampa and just show the world that we’re capable of playing with anybody.”
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