John Thompson he is not happy to be leaving as Georgia State’s defensive coordinator, but he is excited to get to go home to Arkansas and join friend Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State.
Thompson, an Arkansas native, joined coach Bill Curry’s first staff as defensive coordinator in 2008. He resigned on Saturday to take over the same job with the Red Wolves.
“Nothing here had anything to do with me going,” Thompson said. “It was all about the situation there and where it is, what it is.”
Curry said he is happy for him.
“It was just something he couldn’t turn down,” Curry said. “I don’t blame him at all and I’m very pleased. Like everyone else he came as an act of faith and has worked hard to get us to this point.”
Curry said Thompson’s decision may affect the team’s plans to install a different defensive scheme, a 4-2-5, to replace the various systems used last year when the Panthers gave up 31.2 points and 403.3 yards per game. The Panthers begin spring practice on March 6. Curry said he has some preferences for the defense, but declined to say what they are because he doesn’t want to lock the team into something.
“Whoever takes over as coordinator will have the opportunity to sell me on the system that he uses,” Curry said. “Or if we hire someone on staff, that person will have flexibility to use their system.”
Curry said he will interview Anthony Midget, already on staff as defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator, for the job. He said he also expects he will get a lot of phone calls. Midget has also been one of the original members of Curry’s staff, joining the program after spending 2007 season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Other than Thompson, no one on Curry’s staff has experience as a college defensive coordinator.
Another fact that may complicate the search is Curry’s contract expires next year and he has repeatedly said he won’t decide on his future until after this season. Athletic director Cheryl Levick has said Curry can coach at Georgia State for as long as he wants.
Thompson said Curry’s contract status played no part in his decision and that he’s confident the team will bounce back from last year’s 3-8 season.
“Biggest thing is it was a really a blessing to be here with coach Curry to get this program off the ground,” he said. “I know that they are going to be good.”
Curry said he would like to have the position filled by the time spring practice begins.
“But we won’t make it happen just to say it’s done,” he said. “You can always change spring practice. Don’t want to, but we can.”
Before working with Curry at Georgia State, Thompson spent time as defensive coordinator at several schools, including Ole Miss, South Carolina, Florida and Arkansas, among others during his 29 years of college coaching experience.
Malzahn was hired by Arkansas State during the offseason after he spent the previous three season as Auburn’s offensive coordinator. The Red Wolves went 10-3, 8-0 in the Sun Belt Conference last year, prompting Ole Miss to hire Hugh Freeze, the head coach behind that success, as its new coach.
Thompson said he regrets that he wasn’t able to tell his Georgia State players in person that he is leaving. The school is on Spring Break.
“It bothers me that I don’t get to see them face to face because I will be gone in a couple of days,” he said. “But it was the right time to go.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu