No audition necessary for Lorenzo Ward

Lorenzo Ward was already South Carolina's defensive coordinator, but in title only.

Now, it's his defense.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier had already been strongly considering promoting Ward to be his full-time defensive coordinator and take over for Ellis Johnson, who left to take the Southern Miss head-coaching job.

Spurrier's initial thought was that he would look around a little bit and sort of let Ward audition in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. But the more Spurrier thought about it, the more he realized that Ward was exactly what he was looking for in a defensive coordinator.

"He's the best guy I could hire. That's why I've hired him," Spurrier said Tuesday in announcing that he was promoting Ward. "He knows what we want to do. He and I think almost exactly alike defensively. We've talked a lot of defense over the last two or three years, and he knows how to coach it and we agree on how to coach it.

"So he's going to be our guy, hopefully for several years, and he's certainly the full-time guy as we go through the bowl game and next year and so forth. I felt like I was going to do it anyway, and I felt like we needed to do it right now."

When Ward came from Arkansas to South Carolina in 2009, he was given the defensive coordinator's title. But Johnson, whose title was assistant head coach for the defense, is the one who ran the defense. Ward coached the cornerbacks and safeties his first two seasons in Columbia and concentrated on the cornerbacks this season.

The Gamecocks' pass defense improved immensely this season. They finished No. 97 nationally a year ago in pass defense, allowing an average of 241.9 yards per game. They're ranked No. 2 nationally this season heading into the bowl game and are giving up just 133 yards per game through the air. They're also No. 6 nationally with 18 interceptions after intercepting just 10 passes all of last season.

Ward said he would probably be in the booth for the bowl game now that he's calling the defense. He had coached from the sideline this season.