"At this time I felt it was best for our program to make a change with our defensive coordinator," Malzahn said on Sunday. "Ellis is a true professional and I would like to thank him for his contributions at Auburn.”
Johnson had this comment on losing his spot on Malzahn's staff after coaching with the Tigers a bowl game short of two full seasons. “This is part of the business and I totally understand," he said. I did think we were good in several areas, but overall it wasn’t good enough.
"I’m disappointed for our players, but this is a results business," Johnson added. "I want to thank Coach Malzahn and Auburn for the opportunity the last two years.”
Johnson, who also coached the linebackers, joined Auburn’s staff in December of 2012 after Malzahn was named head coach. In 2012 he spent one season as head coach at Southern Miss and has an extensive background as a defensive coordinator prior to that.
The Tigers are giving up 388.7 yards and 26.1 points per contest this season. In Auburn’s final six SEC games this season the Tigers allowed 38 points to Mississippi State, 35 to South Carolina, 31 to Ole Miss and 41 to Texas A&M and 34 to Georgia prior to being outscored 55-44 on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.
The Tigers, who are 8-4 overall, are expected to find out what bowl game they will play in next week. Malzahn has yet to say who will be in charge of the defense for the bowl game.
Auburn is currently ranked 60th nationally in scoring defense, 82nd in passing defense (239.2 yards per game), 47th in rushing defense (149.5 yards per game and 57th in total defense.
After Johnson arrived at Auburn he changed the Tigers from a 4-3 defensive front to a 4-2-5 alignment. During Auburn’s 2013 SEC Championship season the defense gave up 24.7 points per game and allowed opponents 420.7 yards per contest.
Johnson, who also had an offer to take the vacant defensive coordinator spot at FSU when he was hired by Malzahn, 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 after the Golden Eagles did not win a 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 prior to taking the Auburn job, he also coached linebackers. In 2011 at South Carolina the Gamecocks ranked third nationally in total defense, allowing 268 yards per game.