AUBURN - Former Southern Mississippi head coach Ellis Johnson has agreed to join first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn's saff as defensive coordinator, knowledgeable sources told AuburnUndercover.com.
Ellis Johnson has agreed to run Auburn's defense
Johnson visited the Auburn campus on Wednesday and agreed to terms Wednesday night. He is expected to be paid $800,000 per year and will have a three-year contract.
Johnson is the first coach hired by Malzahn, who was introduced Tuesday night as Auburn's 26th head football coach. He canceled a scheduled visit to Tallahassee to interview for Florida State's open defensive coordinator's position.
Johnson, widely considered one of the nation's top defensive minds, left South Carolina after the 2011 season to become head coach at Southern Mississippi and found little but trouble, going 0-12.
Johnson has also had stints as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State, Alabama, Clemson and Appalachian State.
In Johnson's four years at South Carolina, the Gamecocks finished in the top 15 nationally in total defense three times. In 2011, South Carolina had the No. 4 overall defense in the country, allowing just 268 yards per game.
Johnson has deep roots in the state of Alabama. In 1990, he was hired by Gene Stallings at Alabama, where he served as linebackers coach and was on the staff that won the national championship in 1992. He resigned after the 1993 season to become the defensive coordinator at Clemson. Johnson returned to Alabama in January 1997 to serve as defensive coordinator for head coach Mike DuBose and stayed through the 2000 season.
Johnson, 60, was a defensive end for The Citadel from 1971-74. He started his coaching career at The Citadel, coaching defensive ends in 1975. After six seasons as a high school coach, he returned to The Citadel as linebackers coach in 1982. He served as defensive coordinator at Appalachian State in 1984 and as an assistant at East Carolina in 1985-87.
In 1988 and 1989, Johnson was defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi before moving to Alabama.