Dec. 18, 2004 wire reports

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's newest assistant once helped devise a defensive package designed to stop his new boss. Now, Dave Wommack hopes the "Gator" package can help that old Gator, Steve Spurrier, succeed at South Carolina.


On Friday, Spurrier hired Wommack -- his third assistant with Arkansas ties -- to coach the secondary.

Wommack was recently fired as Arkansas' defensive coordinator but was called by his colleague and close friend, newly hired Game**** defensive coordinator John Thompson, to join him here.

"As far as the decision, it was an easy one for me," said Wommack, who's been a coordinator for 14 of his 23 seasons in the game.

There were no contract terms ironed out yet, South Carolina athletic spokesman Kerry Tharp said.

In 1997, Wommack was drawing up coverages for Southern Miss to handle Spurrier's high-flying tactics in Florida's first game as defending national champions. Wommack remembered it was a mix of coverages using six defensive backs to check the Gator receivers.

Current Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain had two interceptions for Southern Miss, which hung tough for much of the game against No. 2 Florida before losing 21-6.

"We did some nice things," Wommack said. "We had a chance."

Maybe that's why Thompson called on Wommack.

Wommack says he's kept some wrinkles of the "Gator" package as Southern Miss' defensive coordinator and, from 2002 to 2004, at Arkansas. "I hope it can help us here," Wommack said.

Wommack spent four seasons with the Razorbacks, the final three as defensive coordinator. His first year in charge of the defense, Arkansas posted two shutouts (including a 23-0 win over South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium) and led the Southeastern Conference with 36 forced turnovers.

Arkansas won the SEC's Western Division that year.

This season, though, Wommack says the team was hurt by the loss of 23 seniors. The defense yielded 397.2 yards per game -- the highest such total since 1990, when Arkansas allowed 402.3 yards per game.

Wommack says he understood why he was let go and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt remains one of his closest friends. "Sometimes you just have to make a change," Wommack said. "There are no bitter feelings."


Wommack didn't know whether assistant Ron Cooper, kept on from Lou Holtz's staff by Spurrier, would keep working with defensive backs like last season.

Besides Wommack and Thompson, Spurrier also has hired former Arkansas star runner Madre Hill.

Spurrier has one more position on the defensive side to fill.

"We're excited about the addition of Dave Wommack to our staff," Spurrier said Friday. "He is a solid and experienced defensive coach who has been a coordinator before and has coached in the SEC."

Wommack's coaching career began in 1979 as a graduate assistant at Arkansas where Holtz was the coach. Twenty-five years later, Wommack thinks he'll learn a lot from Spurrier. "He's got so much knowledge about the passing game, I think he can enlighten us, too," Wommack said.