COLUMBIA -- Shortly after South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson left to become Southern Mississippi's head coach, Gamecocks football coach Steve Spurrier talked about how much interest he had already received in Johnson's old job.

Spurrier wound up promoting his defensive backs coach, Lorenzo Ward, to replace Johnson. But Spurrier will still find himself sorting through plenty of resumes this offseason because he now has a third spot to fill on his staff.

Special teams coordinator John Butler, who spent one season at USC, informed Spurrier that he is leaving for a job at Penn State, according to South Carolina director of football operations Jamie Speronis.

The Nittany Lions last week hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as their new head coach, replacing legend Joe Paterno, who was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

It is unclear what position Butler will have on O'Brien's staff.

Going to Penn State puts Butler closer to his hometown of Philadelphia. Before coming to South Carolina, Butler was a low-level defensive assistant with the Houston Texans for two weeks. He arrived in Columbia as the replacement for Shane Beamer, who joined his father, head coach Frank Beamer, at Virginia Tech.

Prior to the Texans job, Butler spent four seasons as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at the University of Minnesota.

In Butler's one season at USC, the Gamecocks ranked No. 60 nationally in kickoff returns, No. 68 in punt returns, No. 68 in kickoff coverage and No. 48 in punt coverage. USC returned a punt for a touchdown, ran a fake punt for a touchdown and blocked an extra point and ran it back for two points.

Butler also assisted Johnson with coaching linebackers.

Butler worked specifically with the spur linebackers. Senior Antonio Allen, USC's starting spur linebacker, led the team in tackles last season and was one of its most valuable players.

In addition to Johnson and Butler, USC's other departed assistant is Jay Graham, who coached running backs and tight ends. Graham left to become the running backs coach at Tennessee, his alma mater. The three position coach openings at USC are now linebackers, special teams and running backs/tight ends.

One possibility for the special teams coordinator spot could be Ray Rychleski, who was fired last week after three years as the Indianapolis Colts' special teams coordinator. Before that, he spent one season as USC's special teams and tight ends coach.

Butler was Spurrier's only new assistant coach in 2011, Spurrier's seventh with the Gamecocks. Spurrier had one new assistant in 2010, five in 2009 and two in 2008 -- Johnson and Rychleski.