Steve Spurrier finalized his coaching staff for the second time this month on Friday with the hiring of secondary coach Grady Brown, and he did it at the expense of former assistant Ellis Johnson.
Brown, 34, coached cornerbacks at Southern Miss the last two seasons. He did not follow former Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora to North Carolina and instead took a job on Johnson’s staff after Johnson left the Gamecocks’ defensive coordinator position to take over the Southern Miss program.
“Ellis Johnson, he was very good to me in the brief time we worked together,” Brown said Friday in an interview with 107.5-FM, the school’s flagship radio station. “Going through this process, I talked to Ellis about how I felt kind of loyal to him because he didn’t have to keep me on his staff.”
Johnson encouraged Brown to take the South Carolina job, Brown said.
“He was really good about me coming here,” Brown said. “He had nothing but good things to say about his time spent here in Columbia. He hated to see me go, but he had nothing but good things to say about South Carolina and really encouraged me to take advantage of this opportunity. He thinks a lot of South Carolina.”
Brown fills the opening made when Spurrier fired Jeep Hunter last week. Spurrier said at that time he wanted a more experienced secondary coach. Brown, who also will assist special teams coordinator Joe Robinson, worked on the strength and conditioning staff at LSU before coaching at Southern Miss. Before that, he coached the secondary at Texas Southern and Alabama State, his alma mater.
(Coachingsearch.com reported Friday afternoon that Johnson could now hire Hunter.)
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward will oversee the entire secondary, Spurrier said Wednesday, but Brown will fill the role in practice if Ward is called away by his coordinator duties.
“There will be times when Lorenzo will hang around the linebackers and the defensive line in practice,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier has replaced four assistant coaches and his head strength coach since the end of the regular season, but he is not concerned the turnover will affect his teams’ momentum, he said.
“We’re in good shape,” he said. “We haven’t really changed a whole bunch of stuff, just added some good solid young coaches.”
Brown and Ward have known each other since Ward recruited Brown out of high school in Alabama, Brown said.
“He didn’t get me then,” Brown said “I have been joking with him saying, ‘You finally got me, it was just 15 years later.’”
Southern Miss was seventh in the nation in pass efficiency defense and set the NCAA record for interceptions returned for a touchdown (eight) last year.
He “is a sharp, young defensive secondary coach who has had much success the last three years at Southern Miss,” Spurrier said in a statement released by the school. “He and Joe were together at LSU and know each other well. He will fit in extremely well here and be an excellent addition to our staff.”