South Carolina has a new leading candidate for defensive coordinator. In an exclusive interview with Scout.com, Mississippi State Head Coach Sylvester Croom said, "Ellis is interviewing with South Carolina. Steve Spurrier contacted me for permission to interview him and he will be interviewing."
Mississippi State is expected to counter an offer from South Carolina. USC had previously expressed interest in Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, and Foster accepted a Virginia Tech counter-offer to stay in Blacksburg.
Sources at Mississippi State told GamecockAnthem this morning that should USC offer Johnson, and if the offer was in the $300-400,000 range that Spurrier has openly discussed, that MSU could not match that offer, and Johnson would be expected to accept the offer.
Johnson has solid ties to the Palmetto state. A Winnsboro native, he played and coached at the Citadel in Charleston, and also spent three seasons at Clemson under Danny Ford, the last season as defensive coordinator.
He has coached in four Southeastern Conference championship games and tutored more than 20 players who have made NFL rosters.
Prior to his head coaching responsibilities at The Citadel, Johnson was defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Alabama from 1997-2000. During that four-year stay in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide finished the 1999 season 10-3, won the Southeastern Conference championship over Florida 34-7 in the league title game, and earned a berth in the 2000 Orange Bowl. That team had the nation's second-best rushing defense, a unit that ranked ninth nationally in total defense. He also helped UA to a Music City Bowl appearance in 1998.
That tenure in Tuscaloosa was his second with the Tide. He spent four years as Alabama's outside linebacker coach (1990-93), helping Gene Stallings' teams to a 41-9 record on the field. He helped the 1992 UA team go undefeated, win the SEC title, and earn unanimous national championship acclaim. His linebackers were an integral part to Alabama's defense ranking first nationally in both total defense and against the run. The 91 team finished 11-1, losing only to Florida. All four Tide teams ended their seasons in bowl games: the 1991 Fiesta, the 91 Blockbuster, the 93 Sugar, and the 93 Gator.
Between stints at Alabama, Johnson spent three seasons at Clemson (1994-96), the first two as outside linebackers coach, the final as defensive coordinator and defensive line instructor. He helped that 95 defense rank 10th nationally overall and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense. Prior to his initial stay with the Crimson Tide, Johnson was the defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (1988-89).
Between his second stint at The Citadel and the two-year stay in Hattiesburg, Johnson worked in the state of North Carolina. He was head coach at Gardner-Webb College (1983), defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984) and outside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at East Carolina (1985-87).
Johnson played defensive end for The Citadel in the early 1970s, and his coaching career began under Bobby Ross following his graduation in 1975. A native of Winnsboro, S.C., Johnson is married to the former Caroline Courie of Columbia, S.C. The couple has two sons, Eli and Charlie, and a daughter, Sandra Elliott.
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