Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina didn't wind up having to look very far for their new defensive coordinator; in fact, he was already the "defensive coordinator."
Though new Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson held the title of "Assistant Head Coach for Defense" while working for Steve Spurrier and cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward held the title of defensive coordinator, there wasn't any confusion about who ran the defense and called the defensive plays: Johnson. Which is why when Spurrier announced Tuesday that he was promoting Ward to fill Johnson's shoes, both Ward and his charges were celebrating the news.
“It made me feel good that the players wanted me to have this particular title and run the defense for them,” Ward said.
Ward has a high standard to live up to after Johnson's 2011 unit finished fourth in the FBS in total defense, but there won't be any schematic overhauls or tricky transitions. Ward had three years under Johnson to learn Spurrier's preferred defensive approach and was already familiar with the Gamecocks' 4-2-5 from his years at Virginia Tech before he ever arrived. That familiarity -- and the promise to provide more the same production from 2011 -- was a major selling point to Spurrier.
“He’s the best guy I could hire,” Spurrier said. “That’s why I hired him. He knows what we want to do. He and I think almost exactly alike defensively. We have talked a lot of defense over the last two or three years.”
“We are not going to do a tremendous amount," Ward said of his philosophy, "but what we do, we are going to try to do it well."
In Ward's three seasons coaching the Gamecock secondary, Carolina finished eighth, 97th, and second in the FBS in pass defense.