Jan. 24, 2008
University of South Carolina Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier has named Ellis Johnson as the squad’s defensive coordinator, he announced at a press conference today.
Johnson joins the Gamecocks’ staff after logging a brief stint on Bobby Petrino’s staff at the University of Arkansas. Johnson spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State under Sylvester Croom. He also coached the Bulldog safeties in 2004 and `05 and the inside linebackers from 2006-07. In Johnson’s final game with the Bulldogs, the Mississippi State defense yielded only 231 yards of total offense to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, holding the nation’s leading rusher, Kevin Smith, to nearly 70 yards below his season average.
Johnson’s 27 years as a collegiate coach include four as a head coach and 14 as a defensive coordinator. His resume includes head coaching experience at his alma mater, The Citadel (2001-03), and at Gardner Webb College (1983). He has logged stints as the defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984), Southern Miss (1988-89), Clemson (1994-96), Alabama (1997-2000) and Mississippi State (2004-07). He has also coached in four Southeastern Conference championship games, has been part of one national championship and has had more than 20 players make NFL rosters.
Prior to his arrival in Sarkville, Johnson was the head coach at The Citadel from 2001-03. In his last season, his team went 6-6 for the school’s best record in six years.
Johnson has logged two stints at the University of Alabama. He was the defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Alabama from 1997-2000, helping the Crimson tide go 10-3 in 1999 with an SEC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl. His 1999 defense was No. 2 in the nation against the rush and No. 9 in total defense. Johnson also helped Alabama earn a spot in the 1998 Music City Bowl. He also served as the outside linebackers coach at Alabama from 1990-93, helping head coach Gene Stallings’ teams go a combined 41-9, including an undefeated national championship season in 1992. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 1 that season against the run and in total defense. The 1991 Crimson Tide squad went 11-1. All four of those teams played in bowl games, including the 1991 Fiesta, 1991 Blockbuster, ’93 Sugar and ’93 Gator.
In Johnson’s three seasons at Clemson (1994-96), the Tigers played in the 1996 Gator Bowl and the ’96 Peach Bowl. The 1995 defense ranked No. 10 nationally in total defense and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense.
During his two seasons as defensive coordinator at Southern Miss (1988-89), the Golden Eagles were a combined 15-8 with an Independence Bowl bid in ’88.
A 1975 graduate of The Citadel, Johnson played a defensive end for the Bulldogs. He began his career as the defensive ends coach at The Citadel under Bobby Ross in 1975 before working as the head coach at Gaffney (S.C.) High School from 1976-78 and Spartanburg (S.C.) High School from 1979-81. The Winnsboro, S.C., native is married to the former Caroline Courie. They have two sons, Eli and Charlie, and a daughter, Sandra Elliott. Johnson replaces Brian Van Gorder, who accepted a coaching position with the Atlanta Falcons.
“Brian has been offered a great opportunity to take a defensive coordinator position in the NFL and that’s something that he has chosen to do,” said South Carolina Head Football Coach Steve Spurrier. “We wish Brian and his family all the best.”
VanGorder, 48, was hired at Carolina in December after serving as the Falcons’ linebackers coach in 2007. No stranger to the Southeastern Conference, VanGorder served as a very successful defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at the University of Georgia from 2001-04.