Published January 11, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina special teams coach John Butler is leaving for Penn State and the staff of new Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien.
Butler, who is from Philadelphia, has decided to move back to his home state after a year with the Gamecocks. The news came less than a week after O'Brien was hired as Penn State coach.
O'Brien took over last week, replacing Joe Paterno who was fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Butler told Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier on Wednesday he was moving on, according to a person familiar with the deal who spoke to The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity since neither South Carolina nor Penn State have announced Butler's destination.
Gamecocks athletic spokesman Steve Fink confirmed in an email that Butler was no longer on South Carolina's football staff.
A message left with Penn State athletic spokesman Jeff Nelson was not immediately returned.
Butler's departure means Spurrier has three staff vacancies to fill.
Assistant coach in charge of defense, Ellis Johnson, became the Southern Mississippi coach last month. Running backs coach Jay Graham took a similar position at his alma mater of Tennessee.
Spurrier promoted Lorenzo Ward to take control of the defense before South Carolina's 30-13 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. Spurrier, recovering from knee replacement surgery, has said he would take his time filling South Carolina's openings.
Butler helped Antonio Allen become an all-Southeastern Conference first-team performer and the team leader with 88 tackles. Allen was a second-team selection on the AP All-America team.
The Gamecocks finished eighth in the SEC in punt returns and 11th in league punting. They were seventh in kickoff returns and last in SEC in covering kickoffs.
Kicker Jay Wooten was 7 of 11 on field goals with five of his successful kicks coming from 40 yards or better. Wooten had a long of 49 yards in a 45-42 win over Georgia last September.
South Carolina overcame a poor special teams performance in the bowl game to defeat the Cornhuskers. TV cameras showed Butler trying to show Wooten how to drive the football, something Spurrier took note of during his postgame interviews.
"I said, "Coach Butler, do you realize you're on television right now acting like an idiot trying to demonstrate how to kick the ball?'" Spurrier said. "Hopefully we can get better" next season.
The Gamecocks were 11-2 and finished ninth in the final rankings. It was the most wins and the highest finish in program history.