South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier recently said that it could be after the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska before he decided on a new defensive coordinator to replace Ellis Johnson, who took the head coaching job at Southern Mississippi after Larry Fedora took the vacancy at North Carolina.
It didn't take that long.
Shortly after the team landed in Orlando Monday Spurrier removed the interim tag from Lorenzo Ward, naming him the new defensive coordinator for the Gamecocks.
"We don't have an interim defensive coordinator anymore, we have a full time (coordinator)," Spurrier said. "Lorenzo Ward is our defensive coordinator here at South Carolina."
Ward, who had been given the title of defensive coordinator on January 9th, 2012, was given the title after Johnson received the assistant head coach position. Still, it was known that Johnson was still the man calling the plays and Ward's title of defensive coordinator was just that, a title.
"It's a blessing that Coach Spurrier feels the way about me and I'm excited about it," Ward said. "Coach Spurrier announced to the team (earlier) and they were excited so that made me feel good that the players want me."
Mike Stoops, brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops (a former Spurrier assistant), expressed interest publically last week on a local radio show and Spurrier expressed that he had received several phone calls about the vacancy since news broke that Johnson was going to Southern Miss. After all the names were gathered, Ward was the one that stood out.
"He's the best guy I could hire, that's why I hired him," Spurrier said. "He knows what we want to do; he and I think almost exactly alike defensively. We've talked a lot of defense over the last two or three years. He knows how to coach it and we agree on how to coach it. He's going to be our guy hopefully for several years and he's certainly the full-time guy through the bowl game and through next year and so forth. We'll get all the years and stuff after the game is over, but he's our full time guy."
Ward will be completing his third season at Carolina and will begin his fourth season as the man in charge of the defense. Ward will bring in plenty of experience to the Gamecock defense. After graduating from Alabama in 1989 and returned two years later as a graduate assistant on Johnson's defensive staff in 1991 helping with defensive backs. After a season in high school, he returned to Alabama in 1993 as linebackers coach. Ward left the Crimson Tide to coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga from 1994-99. The final two years at UT-Chattanooga was as defensive coordinator. Ward left Chattanooga to coach on Frank Beamer's staff for seven seasons as secondary coach. He left the Hokies to coach in the NFL with Art Shell for one season before coaching with Bobby Petrino at Arkansas for a season before coming to Columbia.
Ward said to expect to see a similar defense to what Johnson ran.
"What people don't understand is I spent seven years in a 4-2-5 defense at Virginia Tech," Ward said. "It would be what I perceive as my base (defense) because that's where I had the most time at. The defense will stay very similar to what it is."
Spurrier made the move now because there was no reason not to.
"I felt like we were going to do it anyway and I felt like we should do it right now," Spurrier said. "We needed our guys that are coming back next year to look at Coach Ward and Coach Lawing and all these guys and say ‘these are my coaches. Not only this game, but they're going to be my coaches next year, too.'"
Team Arrives in Orlando
The Gamecocks arrived to Orlando Monday afternoon, a week before the bowl game to take part in some of the bowl festivities.
"I'm going to say the same thing every coach says and every player says; we're here to enjoy the town and see Disney World and enjoy the sights," Spurrier said. "Hopefully our players can have some good, wholesome fun, and we're ready to play the best game of the year."
The team went through some stretching and conditioning in the hotel Monday and will begin practice Tuesday afternoon. Carolina will be trying to do what no Carolina team has done in its history by trying to win game number 11. Carolina will also be trying to knock off Nebraska for the first time.
"That's what we're going to try and do - play the best game we can," Spurrier said. "Obviously we have so much on the line and it's a huge game for us, and a huge game for Nebraska, too. They're going for 10 wins and trying to send their guys out with a big year also. Should be a heck of a game.
"Hopefully we'll have some good practices and mentally, physically be ready to play our best."
Senior offensive tackle Kyle Nunn will attempt to play after missing the final eight games due to a back injury, followed by a blood clot in his leg. Nunn will likely not get a sixth year of eligibility, so the bowl game will be his last chance to show the NFL scouts that he is healthy.
"Looks like he's going to try and get ready to play," Spurrier said.
Notebook: Ward named defensive coordinator
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
New Head Coaches Mid-Season ReportThere were a lot of college football head coaching changes before this season. Let's take a look at how a few have fared so far this season.
ScoutWednesday at 4:59 PM
Scout's Top 25 Recruiting ClassesScout has a new top school in the recruiting rankings. Take a look at capsules for the top 25 classes in the country, including a new number one.
Scout FootballMonday at 10:20 AM
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
UGA-USC Game Moved to SundayATHENS - Saturday’s game at South Carolina will be played Sunday afternoon.