ORLANDO, Fla. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called Lorenzo Ward on Tuesday morning with a late Christmas present.
He told Ward that he was no longer South Carolina’s interim defensive boss, a title he had held in the six days since Ellis Johnson left to become Southern Mississippi’s head coach, but instead was the Gamecocks’ full-time defensive coordinator.
“It’s a blessing that coach Spurrier feels the way he does about me,” Ward said. “I am excited about it.”
Spurrier informed the team of the news Tuesday afternoon after the players and coaches arrived to begin preparation for Monday’s Capital One Bowl.
The players congratulated Ward after a brief workout, he said.
“They were excited, and it made me feel good that the players wanted me to have this particular title and run the defense for them,” said Ward, who has been with South Carolina since 2009 as secondary coach. “I feel confident in my ability to coach. We have had some good practices. The guys have really responded to me so far, so I feel good about it.”
The 44-year-old Ward, who played at Alabama, got his collegiate coaching start as a graduate assistant under Johnson in 1993. He has since coached at Chattanooga, Virginia Tech and Arkansas and had a one-year stint in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. This will be his first defensive coordinator job.
“At one time, I thought we might look around a little, and then I started to think, ‘I don’t need to look around. I’ve got the guy right here that knows how we want to coach defense and he knows how to do it,’ ” Spurrier said. “He’s the best guy I could hire. That’s why I hired him. He knows what we want to do. He and I think almost exactly alike defensively.”