Veteran Coordinator Johnson Joins AU's Staff

Gus Malzahn's first assistant coach hire for the new Auburn staff is long-time SEC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

Auburn, Ala.--Veteran college football coach Ellis Johnson has been appointed as Auburn's new defensive coordinator, the first person named to the coaching staff by new AU head coach Gus Malzahn.

Johnson, who also had an offer to take the vacant defensive coordinator spot at FSU, returns to the SEC where he was the defensive coordinator for four seasons under Steve Spurrier at South Carolina prior to spending the 2012 season as head coach at Southern Miss. He was fired from that post at Southern Miss after the Golden Eagles did not win a game.

Malzahn's offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Rhett Lashlee, is expected to be announced as Auburn's new offensive coordinator. As of Thursday night, Johnson was the only official addition to the Malzahn's Auburn staff.

"Ellis is one of the top defensive minds in all of college football," Malzahn said. "He is very experienced and has tremendous success coaching in the Southeastern Conference.

"He is a man of integrity who will be a great ambassador for Auburn," Malzahn added. "We're very pleased to have him join our staff and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program."

Ellis Johnson

I'm very fortunate for the opportunity to coach at Auburn and return to the Southeastern Conference where there is so much tradition and history," Johnson said.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gus Malzahn, both as a man and a coach, and I really look forward to working for him," Johnson said. "Auburn has a wonderful family environment and is a great community, which is a blessing for me and my family.

"This is truly a home run for me," Johnson added. "I can't wait to get started and I'm ready to go to work."

Malzahn said he wants his new coordinators to have major input on who Auburn hires for the defensive and offensive coaching staffs. On Wednesday the new head coach told former assistants on fired coach Gene Chizik's staff that they could apply for spots on the new Auburn staff. All of those coaches were terminated at the same time Chizik was let go, the day after the team's final game.

A 1975 graduate of The Citadel, Johnson has worked as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson and Appalachian State. He also worked as a head coach at Gardner-Webb in 1983 and for The Citadel from 2001-2003.

In his most recent assignment as a coordinator, he also coached linebackers. In 2011 at South Carolina the Gamecocks ranked third nationally in total defense, allowing 268 yards per game. During his four seasons on Spurrier's staff the Gamecocks finished in the Top 15 nationally in total defense three times.

In 2011 Johnson's defense allowed 18.8 points per game, which was 13th nationally, and the Gamecocks were No. 2 nationally in pass defense giving up 133 yards per contest.

Rhett Lashlee

Lashlee, who worked with Malzahn when Malzahn was offensive coordinator at Auburn as well as serving as offensive coordinator with the Red Wolves, was on Coach Pat Sullivan's staff in 2011 as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Samford. Sullivan was on the search committee that helped selected Malzahn as Auburn's head coach.

On Auburn's 2010 national championship team staff, Lashlee coached the slot receivers and worked with all aspects of the offense. He also was on Auburn's staff as a graduate assistant in 2009, Malzahn's first season with the Tigers.

Lashlee's first college coaching job was in 2006 at Arkansas where he was a graduate assistant coach working on Malzahn's staff. That team finished 10-4 overall and won the SEC West.

Prior to working with Malzahn at Arkansas, Lashlee was on Malzahn's staff at Sprindale High School worked under Malzahn at Springdale, Ark., High School coaching the quarterbacks. He worked with Mitch Mustain, who was the 2005 Gatorade Player of the Year.

Lashlee, who was a record-setting QB in high school at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas, was a backup quarterback in college at the University of Arkansas, but he was limited due to a shoulder injury that forced him to give up football.

Along with his four years at South Carolina, new defensive coordinator Johnson served as the defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984), Southern Miss (1988-89), Clemson (1995-96), Alabama (1997-2000) and Mississippi State (2004-07). He has coached in four SEC Championship games, has been part of one national title and has placed numerous players on NFL teams.

Johnson, who grew up in Winnsboro, S.C., was a defensive coordinator twice at Alabama. He was the coordinator and outside linebackers coach in Tuscaloosa from 1997-2000, helping the 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. He worked as the outside linebackers coach from 1990-93, helping Gene Stallings' teams go a combined 41-9, including an undefeated national championship year in 1992.

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