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February 3, 2012

Hood: Spurrier transforms USC staff



During his annual signing day press conference, Steve Spurrier told reporters that the new secondary coach would be hired in a week or so.

Shortly thereafter, Lorenzo Ward told 107.5 FM that the hiring process had barely started.

Well, circumstances changed awfully fast in the ensuing 36 hours.

While there were more experienced candidates out there (former UNC coach Troy Douglas comes to mind), 34-year old Grady Brown is the mildly surprising choice of Steve Spurrier as the new secondary coach.

Brown interviewed Thursday for the job and was quickly hired.

His top priority? Help out Ward, who maintained Wednesday he will continue to work closely with the secondary in addition to his duties as defensive coordinator.

We know this about Brown - he knows a thing or two about numbers. He majored in mathematics education at Alabama A&M.

The departures of Ellis Johnson and Jeep Hunter means the USC coaching staff will be younger than previous years.

But younger doesn't necessarily mean it won't be better. Losing Johnson hurts, of course, because of his extensive experience. But Ward has worked closely with Johnson for the past three years and plans few changes to the defensive philosophy or the scheme.

Hunter? Not so much. Brown should prove to be a capable replacement considering Southern Miss finished No. 7 in pass efficiency defense (108.47 rating) and set an NCAA record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with eight.

That shows Brown is able to get players to give full efforts, something that is much more easier said than done in the modern age of college football.

Spurrier described Brown in a press release as a "sharp, young defensive secondary coach who has had much success the last three years at Southern Miss. He will fit in extremely well here and be an excellent addition to our staff."

Also, the fact Johnson decided to retain Brown from the previous staff speaks volumes. However, to his credit, Johnson didn't stand in the way of Brown jumping at the opportunity to coach in the SEC.

Brown told 107.5 FM The Game on Thursday that Johnson encouraged him to take the USC job and even complimented the Gamecock program while doing so. So, there are no hard feelings, apparently, from USC's former Assistant Head Coach for Defense.

Spurrier knows he hit home runs with the hires of former RB coach Jay Graham in 2009 and current O-Line coach Shawn Elliott a year later. At the time, neither one of those coaches had coached a day at the BCS level.

Yet, both thrived at USC, and Elliott is still succeeding in his ongoing quest to transform the mindset and performance level of the Gamecock offensive line.

Clearly, the accomplishments of Graham and Elliott convinced Spurrier that hiring younger, up-and-coming coaches is the best track to follow.

Both Kirk Botkin and Everette Sands fall into the same category as Brown. Botkin was plucked from the high school ranks in Texas, while Sands had one year of experience at the BCS level with North Carolina State.

Botkin and Sands are both 40 years old. Brown hasn't reached 35 yet. Joe Connolly (strength and conditioning) is 29. Only Joe Robinson (special teams coordinator) is north of 40. Without question, USC has gotten younger in the coaching staff.

Has coaching in the SEC become a young person's profession? Considering the yeoman work required to recruiting successfully in the SEC, it might be.

Given the opportunity, Spurrier saw the need to transform the USC staff. And that's exactly what he did.

Gamecock fans will have to hope youth will be served in 2012, and not just on the football field either even though about half the scholarships will be taken up by redshirt freshmen and true freshmen.

Out of the five new hires (I'm including Connolly in the group), only Robinson has extensive coaching experience at the BCS level.

How rapid has Brown's ascent been? Four years ago, he was working on the LSU strength and conditioning staff. While there, he worked with Robinson.

Six years ago, he was coaching at Texas Southern. Before that, he had a six-year stint at Alabama State.

Because of his relationship with Robinson, Brown has been given the additional title of assistant special teams coordinator.

Brown has been given a lot of responsibility for being a young coach climbing the ladder.

Yet that's consistent with Spurrier's new approach.

Will younger be better? We'll find out in 2012.

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big day stops. We have more analysis of USC's 2012 signing class, plus
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