COLUMBIA - South Carolina is losing defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix to a school in Mississippi after all. Just not the one everyone initially thought it might be.
Ole Miss announced Tuesday afternoon that Nix will move across the conference to become the Rebels' new defensive coordinator.
A pay raise and the chance to work closer to home - Nix has spent most of his life in Alabama and Mississippi - played heavily in the decision, which ostensibly appears to be a lateral move for a man who was recently involved in discussions for the Southern Miss head coaching vacancy.
"Change is part of this profession and I think the best thing for me at this time is to go work for the University of Mississippi and see what we can get done there," Nix said through USC. "It will be great to be closer to home."
USC coach Steve Spurrier was returning from a weekend in New York when he learned of Nix's decision.
"We wish him the very best at Ole Miss except when they play the Gamecocks," Spurrier said in a statement. "We understand change is part of the coaching profession and hopefully this will be a good move for everyone."
Among the early names being bandied about to replace Nix:
-- Georgia Tech defensive coordinator and interim coach Jon Tenuta, who has not made it clear whether he'll stay to be part of Paul Johnson's new staff.
-- Houston Texans secondary coach John Hoke, a former Florida defensive coordinator under Spurrier who helped the Gators lead the SEC in total defense in 2001.
-- Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, the former Carolina Panthers assistant who has South Carolina ties.
-- Atlanta Falcons linebackers coach Brian VanGorder, the former Georgia Southern head coach and Georgia defensive coordinator. The renowned recruiter perhaps becomes more open-eared now that Bobby Petrino will reportedly head to coach at Arkansas.
All of those possibilities, it's worth mentioning, would come with a fairly steep price tag. Nix made nearly $200,000 this past season, and received a raise of about $100,000 a year to move to Ole Miss.
The incoming coach - perhaps the last major hire of Spurrier's coaching career - will probably command at least $250,000.
"I can say to the Gamecocks that I will try my best to hire a proven, outstanding defensive coordinator," Spurrier said, adding through the school that he has no specific timeline in mind for bringing in a new coordinator.
New Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had courted Nix on a couple of previous occasions, while at Arkansas, but had come up empty-handed.
This time, Nix, 35, reached out to Nutt through a mutual friend. Nutt, named the Rebels coach Nov. 27 after a messy divorce at Arkansas, expressed reciprocal interest. A discussion was hatched that led to his hiring Tuesday.
"Tyrone Nix is one of the up-and-coming, bright defensive coordinators in America," Nutt said. "I love the fact that he has a deep connection with the state of Mississippi. He has a great name in this state, has recruited the state and knows the high school coaches."
Nix, originally from Attalla, Ala., played linebacker and began his coaching career in Hattiesburg, Miss., at Southern Miss. USM interviewed him for its head coaching opening and Nix was under consideration until he removed his name from the process last week.
In Nix's third and final season at USC, the Gamecocks finished 56th in the country in total defense but a disappointing 109th (209.3 yards a game) in rush defense.
Coincidentally, Nix's defense gave up 650 total yards - 541 on the ground, 321 to Darren McFadden - to Nutt's Arkansas team in a 48-36 loss in Fayetteville.
When asked about that Tuesday, Nutt pointed to injuries, specifically linebacker Jasper Brinkley's torn knee ligament, as a cause of the sub-par effort by the Gamecocks. He cited the 16-12 victory at Georgia and the 12-point loss at LSU as signs of better efforts this past season under Nix.
"I've known Tyrone for 10, 11 years," Nutt said. "He's an excellent X's and O's coach who knows how to win in the SEC."
The Gamecocks started the year 6-1, but dropped their final five games to end up at 6-6 and miss out on a postseason bowl game.
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