Ellis Johnson is in his his fourth season at Carolina. He joined the Gamecocks after logging a brief stint at Arkansas. He serves as the assistant coach in charge of the defense and also handles the linebackers including the Spurs. In addition, he holds the title of Assistant Head Coach.
Johnson has helped mold a defense into one of the best in the country. The 2010 Gamecock squad was third in the SEC and 12th in the country in rushing defense, giving up 112.4 yards per game on the ground and holding opponents under 100 yards nine times, while recording a league-high 41 sacks. His unit also scored six TDs (five interceptions, one fumble return), the most in a single-season at Carolina. Devin Taylor and Stephon Gilmore earned first-team All-SEC recognition.
Led by All-American linebacker Eric Norwood, the 2009 Gamecocks ranked third in the SEC and 15th in the country in total defense. Carolina was also in the upper half in the SEC in scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Cliff Matthews and Chris Culliver also garnered All-SEC recognition.
In 2008, the Gamecocks ranked 13th nationally in total defense and second in pass defense. Carolina surrendered 292 yards per game, including only 159 yards through the air. As a result, Eric Norwood was named first-team All-SEC, while Emanuel Cook and Jasper Brinkley earned second-team honors.
Johnson was one of five finalists for the 2008 Defensive Coordinator of the Year award as selected by FootballScoop.com.
Johnson spent four seasons (2004-07) as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State under Sylvester Croom. He coached the Bulldog safeties in 2004 and `05 and the inside linebackers in 2006 and `07. In Johnson's final game, the MSU defense yielded just 231 yards of total offense to UCF in the Liberty Bowl, holding the nation's leading rusher, Kevin Smith, to nearly 70 yards below his season average.
Johnson's 29 years as a collegiate coach includes head coaching stops at The Citadel (2001-03) and Gardner Webb (1983). He has logged stints as the defensive coordinator at Appalachian State (1984), Southern Miss (1988-89), Clemson (1995-96), Alabama (1997-2000) and Mississippi State (2004-07). He has coached in four SEC Championship games, has been part of one national title and has had approximately 30 players make NFL rosters.
Johnson logged two stints at Alabama. He was the defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach from 1997-2000, helping the Tide go 10-3 in 1999 with an SEC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl. His 1999 defense was No. 2 in the nation against the rush and No. 9 in total defense. He served as the outside linebackers coach from 1990-93, helping Gene Stallings' teams go a combined 41-9, including an undefeated national championship year in 1992. Alabama's defense ranked No. 1 that season against the run and in total defense. The Tide ran off a 31-game winning streak and a 34-game unbeaten streak from 1991-93. The 1991 squad went 11-1. All four of those teams played in bowl games.
A 1975 graduate of The Citadel, Johnson played defensive end for the Bulldogs. He began his career as the defensive ends coach at his alma mater under Bobby Ross in 1975 before working as an assistant coach at Gaffney (S.C.) High School from 1976-78 and as both an assistant and head coach at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School from 1979-81.
The Winnsboro, S.C., native is married to the former Caroline Courie, a Columbia native. They have two sons, Eli and Charlie, and a daughter, Sandra Elliott.