There are a variety of high-profile coaching jobs available this winter, with some of the choicest locales being Texas A&M, UNC, and UCLA. You can expect to see Southern Miss. coach Larry Fedora be a candidate for these and other positions. Fedora has always been considered an up-and-coming coach who would likely make his way to a BCS position, and his stock has risen during USM's run to a Conference USA Championship in 2011.
If Fedora leaves, message board chatter suggests that Ellis Johnson may be one of USM's top targets. Now, there's no need to panic just yet. Fedora may not leave USM; he reportedly turned down Ole Miss, so it's possible that he's only leaving Hattiesburg for a plum gig, and he'll be competing with other top coaching prospects like Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Auburn's Gus Malzahn for the top jobs. However, if Fedora does bolt, USM will have options other than Johnson. That said, Johnson has ties to Mississippi, and his track record at USC will prove attractive to the Golden Eagles.
If USM comes calling and Johnson has any interest in trying his hand at head-coaching again, I expect him to take this job. There are some head-coaching gigs one doesn't give up a nice coordinator position for. Southern Miss. isn't one of them. USM has a tradition of being one of the country's best mid-majors. They are capable of going toe-to-toe with Ole Miss and Miss. St. for recruits and also get a lot of the Louisiana and Alabama players who aren't quite good enough to play for 'Bama, Auburn, or LSU. They're a perennial player in CUSA and often spring upsets on good BCS foes. Johnson could win if he goes there and does a good job.
A lot of Carolina fans will probably be resentful if Johnson leaves, but they really shouldn't be. This would be a good opportunity for him. In reality, we should be honored if USM comes calling; this is the kind of job that the nation's top coordinators are typically candidates for. Obviously, we should do what we can to keep Johnson, but it may just not be possible. We'll just need to hope we make the right hire for his replacement. Although not much of a defensive mind himself, the good news is that Steve Spurrier has a history of choosing good coordinators to run his defenses. Bob Stoops was one of his proteges, and now it looks like he's groomed another guy for a nice head-coaching job. Hopefully Johnson's replacement, if we need to hire one, will be of a similar caliber.