South Carolina Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson has accepted the head coaching job at Southern Mississippi, according to The Clarion-Ledger. Johnson's appointment comes on the heels of Golden Eagle's coach Larry Fedora leaving to take over as head coach at North Carolina.
Johnson was an assistant coach at Southern Miss in 1988 and 1989 and is headed back after spending the last four seasons as the Gamecocks defensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier. The Gamecocks defense finished the season ranked 13th in the country in points allowed at just under 19 points per game.
Southern Mississippi is coming off an impressive season of its own, finishing 11-2 and ranked 21st in the country.
After building a solid defensive unit at South Carolina, Johnson had been thought to be looking into returning to a head coaching position. He was the head coach at the Citadel between 2001 and 2003.
Although Johnson's contract contained a hefty buyout if he had left for another coordinator position, there's no buyout for taking a head coaching job. His current contract paid $700,000 annually and ran through the 2013 season.
South Carolina's defensive cupboard is well-stocked with solid players around the field and impact players like freshman Jadeveon Clowney. There's no word on whether Johnson's departure will have any effect on 2012 defensive recruits already committed or those still considering the Gamecocks.
Coach Spurrier said prior to the hire that he expected Johnson to remain with the team through the Capital One Bowl on January 2nd.