FAYETTEVILLE — Former University of Arkansas defensive tackles coach John Scott Jr. is on his way closer to home to coach at a rival SEC school.
Members of the University of South Carolina board of trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved a contract for Scott to join coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks. He will make $435,000 for each of the next two years.
Scott — who along with tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. were on-field assistant coaches who carried over from the Bret Bielema regime to coach Chad Morris’ first staff at Arkansas — said he appreciated his time with the Razorbacks.
“Fayetteville’s been a special place, and it’s been a blessing to coach those guys,” Scott said. “The way those guys have played for me the last two years, I think we’ve played pretty decent up front.”
Scott’s salary was $340,000 each of his two years at Arkansas.
Scott, 43, is a native of Greer, S.C., about 100 miles from the South Carolina campus in Columbia. A former All-Southern Conference defensive end at Western Carolina, Scott coached at his alma mater, Texas Tech and the New York Jets among other stops before joining the Razorbacks.
Scott’s two children, John Wesley Scott III and Juliette Alexis Scott, live in Charlotte, N.C., and his son starts high school in the fall.
“This opportunity gives me a chance to be very close to where my kids are,” Scott said. “I’ve only been getting to see them once or twice all season. Now I get to see them more frequently and stay in the SEC.”
Scott said he struggled with the decision before opting to make the move.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “I’ve been going back and forth every day. I always preach to these guys you have to do what’s best for your family. Coach Morris has been phenomenal.”
Scott handled the entire defensive line in 2017, then coached the tackles last season after defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell joined the staff.
Former Arkansas defensive tackle Armon Watts, coming off a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., said Scott helped him improve.
“I think coach Scott is a great teacher,” Watts said. “I think one of the good things he did was, by coming from an NFL background, he brought some of those things to us and it prepared us for the future and what’s to come. He helped slow down the game for me a lot, and it translated to the field most definitely.”
Morris will have flexibility in filling the vacancy on his staff, with the option of adding a fifth defensive assistant to join coordinator John Chavis, Caldwell, and defensive backs coaches Ron Cooper and Mark Smith. He also can add more special-teams oversight to the position.
A glance at Chavis’ extensive background in the SEC leads to a list of several potential candidates to fill the vacancy, many of them with SEC experience.
Among the potential candidates are Brick Haley, Marion Hobby, Buddy Wyatt and David Turner.
Haley played linebacker at Alabama A&M from 1985-88 during Chavis’ tenure there as defensive coordinator (1986-88). Haley, who has spent the past two years at Missouri, is currently the Tigers’ senior associate head coach and defensive line coach.
A former Arkansas graduate assistant in 1990, Haley has stops at Clemson (1988), Mississippi State (2004-06), LSU (2009-14) and Texas (2015-16) on his resume, as well as two seasons with the Chicago Bears (2007-08). His time at LSU ran concurrently with Chavis’ tenure as defensive coordinator for the Tigers.
Hobby, who has connections to Morris and Chavis, was most recently with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was among a group of assistants let go Dec. 31. Hobby played defensive end at Tennessee during Chavis’ run as defensive line and linebackers coach for the Volunteers, and he was also co-defensive coordinator and defensive ends coach for six years at Clemson (2011-16), overlapping with Morris’ tenure as offensive coordinator for the Tigers for four years.
Hobby was Tennessee’s assistant strength and conditioning coach for the national championship season of 1998 and also worked in the SEC at Ole Miss (1999-2004) as a defensive line coach.
Wyatt was hired as a defensive assistant earlier this month at Appalachian State after serving as a senior analyst at Kansas in 2018. Prior to that, he was defensive line coach at SMU under Morris from 2015-17. Wyatt has a background in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12, including four years at Alabama (2003-06) and two stints at Texas A&M (2000-02, 2008-09).
Turner, currently the defensive line coach at Texas-San Antonio, spent the 2016-17 seasons at Texas A&M with Chavis. Prior to that, he served 14 consecutive seasons in the SEC at Vanderbilt (2002-05), Alabama (2006), two stints at Mississippi State (2007-09, 2013-15) and Kentucky (2010-12).