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Cooper leaving USC for LSU

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is in the market for another assistant coach.

Safeties coach Ron Cooper accepted a job at LSU as the Tigers’ secondary coach, Cooper said Monday.

The 46-year-old Cooper, the only Gamecocks’ assistant remaining from the Lou Holtz era, interviewed at LSU with coach Les Miles and new defensive coordinator John Chavis during the weekend.

“They got something special going there,” said Cooper, who had been at USC since 2004.

Cooper received a three-year deal at LSU believed to be worth about $300,000 a year. Cooper’s one-year deal at USC was worth $175,000.

With Cooper’s departure, receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. is the only assistant left from Spurrier’s first USC staff in 2005. Sources said Cooper’s future at USC was in doubt, and Spurrier had advised him to look for another job.

Spurrier would not confirm those details but wished Cooper well.

“This was a wonderful opportunity that came up,” Spurrier said. “We wish Ron the best. He did a lot of good things here — good recruiter, good family guy.”

Cooper said he was scheduled to interview with Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen about the Terps’ defensive coordinator position. But the chance to join a program that won the national championship last season and captured two BCS titles the past six years was too good to pass up.

“I’d originally said I wouldn’t look at anything unless it was a coordinator’s job. But when I looked at it, LSU’s something different,” Cooper said. “There are only a few schools each year that are going to compete nationally.”

At 30, Cooper became the youngest black head coach in college football history when Eastern Michigan hired him before the 1993 season. The Alabama native had other head-coaching stops at Louisville and Alabama A&M.

He helped direct a USC pass defense that ranked in the top five nationally each of the past two seasons.

Cooper’s exit leaves Spurrier with four vacancies after the firing of offensive line coach John Hunt and the departures of recruiting coordinator David Reaves and strength coach Mark Smith to Tennessee.

Spurrier said he expects to hire a couple of coaches this week.

Speculation on Cooper’s position has centered on Arkansas secondary coach Lorenzo Ward, who worked with USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson at Alabama and accompanied him to Arkansas last year before Johnson was hired by Spurrier. But Ward has a multiyear contract, which USC typically has reserved for coordinators.

Meanwhile, TCU offensive line coach Eddie Williamson said Monday he would be interested in discussing the Gamecocks’ opening. Williamson, a Pendleton native, was an assistant at Duke with Spurrier in the 1980s, was on Sparky Woods’ USC staff for two years and was the coach at VMI under USC athletics director Eric Hyman.

“I have a lot of good, positive feelings about South Carolina and the university,” Williamson said. “What’s going to come of all of this, I don’t know. I’m in a very good situation right now at TCU.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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