Dec. 16, 2004
Columbia, S.C. – John Thompson, whose 24-year college coaching tenure includes 19 seasons as a defensive coordinator, has been named the defensive coordinator for Coach Steve Spurrier’s staff at the University of South Carolina. Thompson is recognized as a top defensive mind, with experience at four Southeastern Conference schools – Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. Thompson comes to USC following a two-year stint as head coach at East Carolina University. While he was with the Pirates, he coached a total of three first-team All-Conference USA players and had seven players chosen to the All-CUSA Freshman team.
As a defensive coordinator, Thompson’s units have led their respective conferences in total defense three different times. Twenty-eight of his defensive players have been drafted or signed with National Football League teams, 40 have earned all-conference honors, five have been named All-America, and one- former Northwestern State linebacker Gary Reasons – has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“John Thompson is an experienced defensive coordinator who I probably should have hired three weeks ago,” said Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier. “The best guy is usually the one that wants to come the most and John really wants to be at South Carolina. He is an enthusiastic, upbeat individual. His defenses like to come after people. We will blitz and we will blitz intelligently. He will be in control of the defense and will coach the linebackers.”
Thompson has served as the defensive coordinator at Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State. A native of Forrest City, Ark., Thompson began his coaching career in the high school ranks in 1977 while pursuing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas. He graduated from there in 1978 and continued to coach high school football until moving on to the college ranks at the University of Arkansas as a graduate assistant for head coach Lou Holtz in 1982.
Thompson was the defensive coordinator at Northwestern State from 1983-86. He went to Alabama to coach the linebackers for Bill Curry in 1987 before returning to Northwestern State for the 1988 and ’89 seasons. In 1990, he became defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech and in his two seasons there, his defense ranked No. 8 nationally in rushing defense, No. 19 in scoring defense, and No. 23 in total defense.
Thompson proved to be the mastermind behind the dominant Southern Mississippi defense of the mid-1990s as he took over as defensive coordinator for the Golden Eagles in 1992 and was given the additional title of assistant head coach in 1993. He remained with that program until 1998. Along the way, Southern Miss won or shared two Conference USA titles, ranked among the top 25 nationally in scoring defense twice and made two bowl appearances. He had comparable accomplishments in 1999 as defensive coordinator at Memphis as his Tiger defense ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense and 20th in total defense.
In December, 1999, Thompson made his move to the SEC when he was named Nick Saban’s first defensive coordinator at LSU. Afforded with the opportunity to move back to his home state, Thompson was co-defensive coordinator at Arkansas in 2000, as the Razorbacks were second in the nation in pass defense and led the SEC in both pass defense and total defense. As the sole defensive coordinator in 2001, Thompson helped lead the Hogs to the 2002 Cotton Bowl.
Thompson was appointed defensive coordinator at Florida in 2002 and the Gators advanced to the Outback Bowl against Michigan. Allowing just 162.4 passing yards per game, his Florida pass defense ranked seventh in the nation and was the best by a Gator team since 1989.
“Steve Spurrier is the best offensive coach I’ve ever had to prepare for and I can’t tell you how excited I am about joining his staff and coming to South Carolina,” said Thompson. “I’ve been intrigued with Coach Spurrier for many, many years. This is a tremendous opportunity. I’ve coached at Williams-Brice Stadium and I know how excited the people are there. They want to win so badly. South Carolina is a first-class program and I can’t wait to become part of it. Our defensive philosophy is pretty simple – get the ball back for the offense and let them have the best field position they can have.”
Thompson’s playing career includes time as a prep quarterback at Forrest City (Ark.) High School and two seasons as a defensive back at Central Arkansas.
Thompson and his wife, Charleen, have two children: Cabe (9) and Hays (6).