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Johnson to Southern Miss

Assistant head coach Ellis Johnson is expected to be named the head football coach at Southern Miss in the next 24 hours. Johnson, who interviewed in Atlanta, Ga. for the position on December 15, was offered the job on Monday and accepted the position while in Hattiesburg, Miss.

South Carolina assistant head coach Ellis Johnson is expected to be named the next head coach at Southern Miss in the next 24 hours.

Sources indicated to that Johnson was at South Carolina’s morning practice, which began at 10:15 a.m., but he then departed for Hattiesburg, Miss., for a second interview with the Southern Miss administration, including president Martha Saunders.

Johnson was offered the job and agreed in principal to the position late Monday evening. He has not signed his contract.

Johnson was an assistant coach at Southern Miss from 1988-89 and also served at Mississippi State from 2004-07. Johnson, who is in his fourth season at South Carolina, was the head coach at The Citadel from 2001-03. He has expressed a desire to get back into the head coaching ranks again.

Johnson has made it clear that he would be open to being a head coach again and the Southern Miss job proved to be the right opportunity.

“I love what I’m doing now living near my home town - in my home town. I’m very well treated here and love working for coach Spurrier in the Southeastern Conference,” Johnson said in an interview on Nov. 17. “I don’t worry about (being a head coach). If an opportunity came along I thought was fun, had an opportunity to win, and could get a staff together, I think it’d be great to do it. I certainly would not shy away from it. I’m happy with the job I got and I’m very fortunate to have it.”

Apparently the opportunity to coach at Southern Miss was the right opportunity.

Johnson’s name was one of the first to emerge when rumors surrounding former USM head coach Larry Fedora began to surface that he would take a head job at a BCS school. Fedora settled on North Carolina and Johnson’s name immediately surfaced.

USM offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who planned to follow Fedora to North Carolina, was the other candidate in the lead group. Fedora and his staff have stayed on to coach the Golden Eagles in their bowl game. Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher was another name prominently mentioned for the job.

Johnson is currently in his fourth season at South Carolina. His first season with the Gamecocks, he was one of five finalists for Defensive Coordinator of the Year by Last season, the defense finished No. 15 nationally against the run. In 2009, the defense finished No. 15 national in total defense.

Johnson agreed to a deal in February 2010 that extended his contract two years and doubled his salary. He currently makes $700,000 with South Carolina and is under contract through the 2013 season. Johnson does not have a buyout should he become a head coach, but he’s responsible for the remaining amount on his contract should he leave for another coordinator position.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said on Sunday that he expected Johnson to remain in Columbia and coach the Gamecocks through the Capital One Bowl on January 2, 2012.

Stay tuned to for further developments and names of potential replacements.

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